Drought Brings Hunger to Kenya

Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer in East Africa, reports on the devastating impact of drought and high food prices in Kenya.

Kenya food

Although food is available in local shops, many Kenyans simply can’t afford to buy any. CRS vouchers are enabling the neediest families to purchase two to three weeks worth of supplies.. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Finally, food and fuel prices are starting to drop across the globe. But in many countries these price drops have yet to reach the average person trying to survive during these hard times. And in East Africa, where drought is desiccating fields across the region, some families have no food stocks left and no idea where their next meal will come from.

This was the case last week for Virginia Nzyoka and her household of 12. Virginia, at 28 years old, lives with her husband and their five children. She also takes care of four young relatives who are now orphans, as well as her disabled grandfather.

When I met Virginia last Friday, I asked her how much food she had in her house right now. Her answer? “Nothing.” In August, she earned $20 selling five large bags of charcoal, made by scouring the region for wood to burn. With this money, combined with $20 her husband earned working part-time as a cook at the local school, they bought a 40-pound bag of corn. The night before, her family had eaten the last kernels.

Kenya food

Virginia Nzyoka will use her $40 worth of vouchers from CRS to buy corn, a few beans and cooking oil, which should feed her household of 12 for the next two and a half weeks. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Earlier in the season, they planted four acres of corn, cow peas, green grams, pigeon peas, millet and sorghum. But a third consecutive season of devastating drought killed off the majority of the crops. Only 1.5 acres of corn and cow peas germinated, and the initial corn shoots are looking pretty shabby.

Virginia is extremely thankful for the $40 worth of vouchers that CRS gave to her last Friday. As part of an emergency relief program funded through private donations, CRS is providing these vouchers to 3,000 families most affected by the drought, targeting vulnerable households such as those headed by widows, orphans and people with disabilities.

Virginia plans to exchange her vouchers at the local store for more corn, a few beans and some cooking oil. She thinks this food will feed her household for the next two and a half weeks. And after that? “God will provide,” she says. Hopefully CRS will also be able to continue providing emergency support if additional donations come in.

Kenya is one of more than 100 countries whose people you help when you partner with CRS in reaching the world’s poorest. The global financial crisis has, of course, hurt everyone. It has made helping more difficult even as it increases the desperation of needy people. If you are at all inclined and able to help, know that what may seem an insignificant amount to you is nothing less than lifesaving. Even a little bit can make a big difference.

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