Families facing hunger in the aftermath of drought are getting relief and long-term solutions thanks to our church partners.

Flora Karisa, 13, wakes just as the sun rises, the pink sky barely visible through the palm trees towering outside her window. Flora cautiously moves about the tiny room where her five siblings and mother, Zawadi, are curled on the floor, asleep in their one-room home in Muyeye, Kenya.

A girl wearing a purple shirt, stands in a doorway and smiles.Soon, she is clad in her green school uniform and maroon cardigan. There’s no breakfast, so she momentarily soothes her rumbling stomach with a cup of strong tea before grabbing her school bag and creeping silently out of the house.

Barely two hours later, Zawadi receives an urgent message from school. Flora has collapsed. She was playing on the playground when she passed out. In a frenzy, her classmates carried her to the edge of the playground and cried for the teacher’s help.

Flora remembers, “I struggled to concentrate in class all morning. By nine o’clock, the hunger pangs were unbearable. I just felt my energy fade away, and I fell on the ground.”

Hunger had become common for Flora and her siblings—and for many in her surrounding community.

Much of East Africa has experienced the aftermath of drought in 2016 and 2017. And while Compassion’s church partners don’t operate in the worst hit areas, some of the areas we serve in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda experienced the long-term effects of the drought, including:

  • Reduced crop yield and crop failure
  • Reduced pasture area, resulting in the death of livestock
  • Rising food prices and food shortages
  • Water shortages and more time spent gathering water from farther sources
  • Increased child labour and decreased school attendance

For Compassion-assisted families, there is a safety net. Through our holistic child development program, our church partners monitor the well-being of the children at their centres. They monitor the children’s health, as well as check in on their school attendance to make sure the drought hasn’t pushed them out of school.

For those families who were impacted, Complementary Interventions, funded by our generous donors, stepped into the gap. Through these funds, our church partners were able to provide immediate relief in the form of therapeutic feeding for malnourished children and food distributions for families at risk.

They also are providing long-term solutions that will help families weather crises in the future, including:

  • Training in income-generating skills to diversify income sources
  • Business management skills and savings and loans groups for parents
  • Alternative agricultural methods and sustainable animal husbandry options
  • Crop storage and preservation training
  • Water harvesting systems

In Flora’s case, her family received food staples to get them through the worst of the crisis. The day of the food distribution, the centre pulsated with singing and dancing as the parents thanked God for the provision. Families received enough rice, beans and maize flour to last them several months.

A girl sits inside her families hut as someone cooks over a fire.

“The food relief has been very instrumental in protecting vulnerable children from hunger,” says Eva, the Compassion centre director in Flora’s community. “It has offered them a well needed source of nutrition essential for the mental and physical development of young children. With a full stomach, the children can focus all their energies on learning at school.”

But food distribution can only be a temporary measure. Eva and her team are dedicated to helping these families build security long-term.

“At the centre we are trying to make our caregivers more resilient to the harsh climatic realities. We have established savings and loan groups, through which the parents are able pool money. They can then lend it to their members and charge interest,” says Eva. “We have also provided the families with seeds for vegetable gardens where they can cultivate tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. This has the ability to improve food security and the nutritional diversity of the household. It also helps households save money, and the surplus is sold for additional income.”

A girl stands in her family garden and holds up some fresh produce.

Eva and all the staff at the Compassion centre are optimistic. They look forward to when families will have enough to eat even in bad times, thanks to the measures they have put in place.

For now, Flora is healthy and is able to concentrate on her studies in school.

Every day after school, Flora rushes home to tend to her small kitchen garden. It gives her great joy and a sense of responsibility. Flora gently prunes the leaves of the tomato plant and carefully sprinkles water on the roots. She pauses to watch a plane fly overhead and disappear into the horizon, fueling her desire to one day conquer the skies as a pilot. Though the drought killed the land, it has not killed her hope.

Words by Isaac Ogila and Amber Van Schooneveld; photos by Isaac Ogila

Written by: Compassion Canada