East Africa Drought Crisis

by ActionAid International USA
It hasn
It hasn't rained in Sericho for nearly 3 years

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.

Ililhan (L) and cousin Katra smile at the camera
Ililhan (L) and cousin Katra smile at the camera

Reported by ActionAid staff, Ssanya Kalibbala in Kenya

What is she trying to tell me?


I ask Mr. Ismail Galma, a special needs teacher at the Isiolo School for the Deaf in Kenya.

Six-year-old Ililhan is repeatedly gesturing towards her mouth and then points towards the ActionAid delivery truck that has just pulled through the school gates. "She is saying that she’s hungry. She is asking if that will be dinner."  The teacher signs back to Ililhan patiently. "Yes, it is dinner. We will soon be eating again."

ActionAid is delivering 143 tons of maize, beans and vegetable oil to the Isiolo School for the Deaf, home to around 100 students between the ages of 4 and 17.

Head Teacher, Ali Dima Duba says, "We ran out of food yesterday and had nothing to serve for dinner. Luckily ActionAid came today and saved us."

"It was an emergency situation because the children hadn’t eaten since this morning and we were about to close the school. Thank god you came into the picture.

"Because of their disability, communities often reject deaf children. Most of the students here were abandoned by their parents or relatives.  Some are orphans, found on the streets.

"We become their parents." Ismail explains, as he gives a big hug to Ilihan and her 6 year-old cousin Katra (pictured) who were brought to the school by their grandmother three months ago.

The drought is bringing about a crisis to our school because most of the children here are from pastoral areas where the drought has hit the hardest.

"Their parents or guardians can no longer afford to send them to school because all their animals have died and they no longer have a livelihood. We cannot chase away these children because they have nowhere else to go," says Ismail.

Enrollment in the school is increasing, as more children become an added burden to their families because of the drought. 

Mumina Huka, a special needs teacher at the school says: "Right now we have children as young as 4 years old. These children are supposed to be with their parents at this age so it is a big trauma for many of them to be here when they arrive here. But it becomes an even bigger trauma when they go back home because they cannot communicate with their families, and households often don’t have enough to eat. Many children come back from holiday much skinnier and some are unrecognizable."

This food relief operation is part of ActionAid’s response to the drought, and is funded by donations from our donors.  Our recent appeal has allowed us to increase the number of people we normally give food to in Isiolo from 56,000 to 83,880.








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Organization Information

ActionAid International USA

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.actionaidusa.org
Project Leader:
Amy Leichtman
Program Manager
Washington, DC United States

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