By Regina Mburu, communications liaison for Unbound in Africa
Regina is from Kenya and works out of Unbound’s Nairobi office. She recently visited families served through Unbound’s Meru program in central Kenya. The region has experienced severe drought over the last several years, and a report from Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority estimates 1.5 million people are in need of immediate food assistance.
The drive to Kenya’s vast Tharaka-Nithi County, south of Meru, was marked by rough terrain. The ride was bumpy, and at times I had to hold on tight to my seat as the driver maneuvered around huge rocks on our path.
The sun was fierce, scorching the land. Beads of sweat rolled down my face as I looked through the car window, and all I could see were tracks of land covered in dust.
The ground below was breaking, with no water to quench its thirst. The remaining vegetation consisted mostly of cactuses and thorny trees.
The car came to a halt. We would cover the remaining distance on foot, as the paths were too narrow for a car. We were visiting the family of Jospeter, a sponsored youth pursuing his education.
The path was so dry a cloud of dust puffed up with each step we took.
“When is the last time it rained here?” I asked Jennifer, the social worker accompanying me on the visit.
“It has been almost five years since it last rained,” she said. “Look around you; the thorny trees tell it all. It has been dry for so long.”
Unbound serves many families in Tharaka-Nithi and other counties that have been plagued by drought. The situation has grown worse by the day, and some families are on the brink of starvation.
As we approached Jospeter’s home, I heard the sound of children giggling and playing. I smiled. Despite the desolate environment, the children were still having fun.
Pindise, Jospeter’s mother, welcomed us warmly. She pulled up some chairs for us under a tree that barely had leaves on its branches for shade. Sitting down, however, was a relief after the half-hour walk.
As we sat, my eyes were immediately drawn to Jospeter’s younger brother Evans. I beckoned him to come to me, which he did rather excitedly. As I held him, I could feel how fragile his body was.
I noticed his protruding stomach and reddened hair — symptoms of malnutrition. I struggled to fight back tears. As Evans sat on my lap, fiddling with my camera, I could feel my throat tightening. I was awash with sadness.
I had only seen severely malnourished children on TV when I was growing up. My mother would admonish me when I refused to eat, saying, “Look at those children, they have nothing to eat. You are lucky to have food on your plate.” One look at them and I would clear the contents on my plate.
Evans took me back to all those children I had seen on TV when I was a little girl. His family is among many in the area that struggle with poverty and starvation, and little Evans was a victim of malnutrition.
“It has been quite difficult on us,” Pindise said. “I am a single parent to seven children and being able to feed them has been quite an uphill task. Many are the days we have gone to bed on empty stomachs.
“My children crying because of hunger has crushed my spirit as a mother. I have felt so helpless.”
The Unbound staff in Meru recognized the growing need in the area and requested additional funds to help families in need of nutritional assistance. As a social worker for Unbound’s Meru program, Jennifer helped identify families that needed additional help.
“We visited the homes of the families we serve and we came up with a list of those who need our assistance the most,” Jennifer said. “Jospeter’s family was one of those who were hard hit by the drought.”
The family received nutrition items such as beans, flour, cooking fat and other grains.
“When Unbound staff visited me and saw my need, they put my name on the list of those who would receive assistance,” Pindise said. “I was overjoyed. My children would have at least a meal per day.”
The food grant from Unbound has gone a long way toward putting smiles on the faces of many families who were struggling with hunger. Their children are slowly recovering from malnutrition. They can now play and fill the air with their giggles.
Evans is slowly regaining his health and strength.
My visit with Jospeter’s family reminded me once again about being grateful for the blessings in my life: food on my table, shelter over my head and clothes on my back.
Want to help? Donations to Disaster Relief help provide families with the basic necessities of life in times of natural disaster.