In Sericho, my Kenyan colleagues tell me that this is where I will see the drought at its worst. Local people say they have not seen rain here since 2008.
ActionAid, working with the WFP (World Food Programme), have scaled up food relief to such a point that we are now reaching 85% of households in Sericho. And this doesn’t include the school feeding programs we are running in the area’s nine schools. In theory, we’re reaching the 3,180 children that are enrolled in the school. But in practice it is far more, because children who are not enrolled in school, as well as other community members, come to the schools at lunch time to supplement their daily food intake.
I meet Dahabo Adan, just one of the women relying on food distributions. Dahabo is 25 and a single mother of three. As she tells me her story, it seems that all the difficulties in her life are a result of the recurrent droughts that plague this area.
Dahabo says that her husband used to own 50 goats, but that during the drought of 2009 they all perished. “Ever since that happened, he was stressed and wondering what to do next. One day I came home and he was gone. I still don’t know where he is."
Because of the hard times I have had to give my girl to her grandmother to look after in Merti.
Dahabo now works as a maid to support herself and the two children that still live with her. My initial thought is that at least she doesn’t rely on farming and agriculture like so many other people I’ve met. But even this job hasn’t been safe from the effects of the drought. Dahabo explains that she used to earn 1,000 shillings a month, but that the drought has hit everyone in her community, not just the poor. Now her employers are only able to pay her half of what they used to. So she’s left to survive on just 500 shillings (US$ 5.53) a month.
It is the same story for many of the women in Sericho. So many women we speak to say that once all of their livestock died, their husbands left as they didn’t know how to cope. For some that was back during the droughts of 2009, for others more recently.
On the drive up here we saw countless sheep, goat, donkey and camel carcasses littering the roadside. Speaking to the women in Sericho I realize just what that means. The loss of livestock is the loss of your life savings, your insurance, your children’s school uniforms, and your medical fees if one of your family members gets sick. For men it’s the loss of your status and your ability to provide for your family. For many of the women of Sericho it is the loss of their husbands, and being abandoned to survive on their own that hits the hardest.
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