Helping Children Survive the Deadly Impact Of Drought

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Asinyen and her baby live in Turkana County,Kenya.

Asinyen* is a 24-year-old mother of two living in Kerio location, Turkana County. Her family was adversely affected by the current drought, and 90% of their livestock have died off. Furthermore, the once a mother of two; lost her one-year-old son after he started to diarhoea and vomit one evening and by dawn he was dead. Kerio location in northern Kenya is one of the areas that was severely affected by the drought in 2017.  

Save the Children staff met Asinyen during a drought response outreach session in June 2017. Her remaining son was malnourished and the condition moved from bad to worse due to lack of food. Her son was admitted at Kerio hospital for one week. After his condition improved, he was later discharged and enrolled in the Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) implemented by Save the Children. Asinyen also benefitted from the Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programme (BSFP). 

To support children and mothers like Asinyen, Save the Children deployed a primary health care unit to strengthen the Ministry of Health’s capacity to provide curative services for children and adults, and Asinyen and her son benefitted from the screening and regular medical check-ups.

In an interview with Save the Children staff in June 2017, Asinyen said: “This drought was bad for us. We ate only one meal a day. I was always hungry and had trouble breastfeeding my remaining son. On a good day, the children got some portions of rice for lunch. The only difference between this drought and the 2011 one is that we are getting help from organisations like Save the Children. Our children were treated by health workers who visited our village. In 2011 we were not getting any help.”

Save the Children staff visiting Asinyen as part of follow up

“It is likely that Asinyen’s younger son died from severe malnutrition. The drought was getting worse and the cost of living was high, shrinking the food rations in the household. Unfortunately, he had never been brought to the outreaches for screening. The remaining son was moderately malnourished when we first saw him at the outreach. He later became severely malnourished because of hunger at home. We got him admitted in hospital, he recovered and we enrolled him into the outpatient therapeutic programme,” says Gabriel Ekale, Save the Children Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Officer.

Since 2013, the level of acute malnutrition in Turkana County has reduced significantly from as high as 1 in every 3 children as recorded in Jan 2017 to 1 in every 6 children.

Livestock carcass due to the drought.

According to the Turkana County Nutrition Technical Forum, this improvement is attributed to a robust and integrated emergency response strategy mounted by Save the Children and other partners led by Government through BSFP, integrated health and nutrition outreaches, hunger safety net and other cash transfer programmes, general food distribution, Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and child protection interventions among others. The situation was further boosted by relatively better performance of the short rains season late last year.

Save the Children is working with the Ministry of Health in three sub-counties: Turkana Central, Turkana North, and Kibish where they have established outreach sites in communities that are at least 10km from existing functional health facilities in order to reach remote communities who are desperately in need of assistance. 

*Names have been changed to protect identity