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Central Kenya ravaged by drought too

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 – The drought that has ravaged parts of the country leaving an estimated 3.5 million Kenyans hungry and desperate for food is a sad state of affairs.

Although a lot of emphasis has been placed on the Northern frontier, other parts like Central Kenya have not been spared either from the harsh conditions.

Mitithini village in Makuyu, Murang’a County is one such area that is suffering the devastating effects of the current drought.

“The area has been dry for the last four years we have never gotten any harvest,” explains James Wambua, the area Assistant Chief.

The villagers here live in abject poverty, the deplorable housing a testimony of the desperate situation the families are in.

The water points have dried up and crops have failed.

“It’s very dry here. We look for manual jobs where we are paid Sh100 per day. When we don’t get money we sleep hungry and sometimes we just have enough food for the children,” says Zakayo Mutuku a 56 year old father of 10.

Mr Mutuku is frail, sickly and desperate for help. Not once or twice has he and his family slept hungry, he says, but countless times.

What makes it worse is that he and his wife are living with HIV. Three of their children have also died of the disease.

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And now without the right nutrition, the two could just well be sitting on their death bed.

“This is our fourth month since we received some relief,” remembers the area Assistant Chief.

“We had been given sorghum, maize and beans to plant but the supply came a bit late so the crops didn’t perform well,” he elucidates.

He says the community had also received food aid in the form of maize, beans and cooking oil.

“However this was little compared to the family sizes here,” Mr Wambua says.

Although no one has died of hunger in the area, about 30 percent of the population in this area is faced with starvation.

Veronica Nzila is a 46 year old mother of 14. The eldest is 23 years while the youngest is two and a half years. Although she has a job as a sweeper at a local market, the money she makes is hardly enough to sustain her large family. Her husband is jobless.

“We eat only one meal a day because it is a struggle to get food,” she says.

Ms Nzila and her family are classified among the vulnerable groups by the Provincial Administration in the locality which is about 130 kilometres north of Nairobi.

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The many years of failed rainfall have left the locals in a frantic search for food and water.

“We are getting the water about four kilometers away. There are people who are ferrying it on bicycles, bringing it here and then they sell it to the community at about Sh50 per jerrican of 20 litres so the situation is that bad,” the Assistant Chief says.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) which is working on food insecurity in various parts of the country has urged the government to address the plight of people like Mr Mutuku and Ms Nzila who live in abject poverty and whose lives are threatened by the drought.

“In this area apart from the serious problem of food shortage, there is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and many of the families sleep hungry despite the fact that they are HIV positive. So we would call for government intervention or well wishers so that as other families are being remembered in Turkana and North Eastern, these families are also given attention,” pleads Wilson Wanyoike, the NCCK Central region coordinator.

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