FEED’s Drought Response in Samburu and Turkana County

Written by Edna Onchiri, PR & Communications Manager (Kenya)

 

SAMBURU COUNTY

Feed the Children has been working in Samburu County – Samburu East Sub County since 2011.  Our programs are implemented in Archers Post, Weso West, Sereolipi and Ndonyo Wasin locations.  This region does not have reliable water supply, hence there is limited water access in the region which makes both the indigenous population and wildlife seek and share the resource from the same area.

The communities in the four areas where we work relies on River Ewaso Nyiro, a body of water that is mostly relied upon by the wildlife in the area for their crucial survival.  There are a variety of wildlife in the area including elephants, zebras, giraffes, lions and a variety of different species of wild animals.

In response to the water problem in Samburu, FEED has so far constructed four water pans in the area.  The water pans provide water for community members and to their domestic animals.  Before construction of the water pan, residents of Waso location used to walk long distances (20 – 30kms) to get water from River Ewaso Nyiro.

The water pan can hold water for up to seven months after every rainy season (April – May, Oct-Nov).

When the rains fail or they are inadequate like they were in 2016, the water pans are not able to adequately serve communities.

 

Current Situation in Samburu

A Food Security Short Rains Assessment report that was conducted between December 2016 and January 2017 in Samburu indicated that, rainfall cessation was early and below average with situation predicted to worsen. The available pasture expected to last for less than 4 weeks with milk production below normal. Food security status and prognosis showed that the current situation is at stressed phase (phase 2).

The major water sources (R. Ewaso Nyiro and springs at Kom) have dried up posing serious water problem for both human and livestock. People have migrated with the livestock to the neighboring counties and some as far as Mt. Kenya in search of water and pasture. Water access has been major challenge with sanitation and hygiene conditions also deteriorating.  Mothers are forced to walk up to 15kms in search of water for their children. Young boys have also joined their parents in search of water and pasture leading to the high dropout rate of boys from schools. With no water in some of the schools and ECDEs children have been forced to stay at home with some ECDEs being closed.

 

TURKANA COUNTY

Feed the Children has been working in Turkana County since 2013.  FEED programs are implemented in Namukuse and Kalokol locations.  Although Lake Turkana lies in this county, it is far from where FEED has implemented its activities.

The location has a limited number of water points with communities travelling over 10Km to collect water from shallow wells along river Lochor Aikeny (seasonal) and Nasura well. The community has been depending on these far distant water sources for domestic use.

Feed the Children constructed an infiltration gallery in Lochor Aikeny in 2014 with support from Turkana County water office.  The water from the gallery is clean and safe for consumption and was meant to benefit Lochor Aikeny Primary School and the community at large.

Although the infiltration gallery was to provide water for the community throughout the year according to the tested yield, this has not happened due to technical challenges.

 

Current Situation in Turkana

The drought continues to bite in Turkana. In the past weeks there have been responses from the national and county government. Communities have received maize and beans but the supplies won’t last for long. Water shortage is critical. Turkana County Government has been conducting water trucking in selected points, however, the delivery is irregular and does not serve the hard to reach areas. FEED distributed CSB to all the schools we work in and hope to truck water trucking to the same schools. There were minor showers this week but the water sources have not re-charged.

Providing Emergency Support to Drought-Stricken Northern Region of Kenya

Written by Edna Onchiri, PR & Communications Manager (Kenya)

 

As the drought that has caused water and food shortage in parts of Kenya continues, Feed the Children’s office in Kenya is busy working with communities, and the county governments of Samburu and Turkana to address water and food shortage in primary schools and Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDCs).

Focused on some of the hardest hit areas where FEED has implemented programs, the organization is ramping up a number of key activities to assist with emergency response.  Some of the ongoing interventions include logistical support to provide at-risk children and their families with nutritious porridge flour and water.  Providing health education to communities about water treatment, and working with communities to ensure correct hygiene steps are taken when preparing porridge.

The major water sources in Samburu and Turkana counties have dried up posing serious water problem for both human and livestock.  Water access has been a major challenge with sanitation and hygiene conditions deteriorating.

Mothers are forced to walk long distances in search of water for their families, and children have taken to joining their parents in search of essentials which leads to school dropouts.

With no water in some of the schools and early learning centers, children have been forced to stay at home with some ECDC’s closing down.

In responding to the drought situation, FEED has partnered with the County Government of Samburu and Turkana to provide Corn Soya Blend (CSB) flour and water to more than 9,000 children.

Primary schools and ECDCs continue to benefit from the three-month supply of porridge flour and water.  The supply began in March and will run through to May when it is expected that the rains would have fallen for crops to grow and water to fill their sources.

According to a March 2017 report by OCHA highlighting the impact of drought and conflict on women and girls, the drought has forced women to make agonizing decisions on whether children can continue to attend school.  The report says that in Kenya, 180,000 children dropped out of school due to drought with a majority being girls.

We are prepared to do all that is possible to help communities minimize and address the effects of the drought and subsequent food shortage, and save lives.

The Importance of World Water Day

Written by Caitlin Duncan, Government Relations Fellow

For World Water Day 2017, we at Feed the Children (FEED) would like to invite you to imagine a few simple scenes. First, imagine a sweltering summer day and how much you would savor a cup of cool water. Next, imagine finally getting to bathe after a long day of work or travel. Lastly, think of getting up early to cook a big pot of oatmeal for your family’s breakfast. Now in your mind’s eye, was the cool water you drank a cloudy yellow color? Did you have to walk a mile or more to bathe in a murky river or pond? Did you consider that your family might become ill from the food you cooked with contaminated water?

The UN has declared access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) a human right. And for many who read this, clean water is so readily available that we may have never considered how different our lives would be without it. Our water is always clear and clean, which is something to be grateful for. However, for the estimated billions of people around the world without easy access to safe, clean water, this lack puts a constant strain on their health and time. Ensuring adequate WASH practices is a key global health initiative, and FEED works diligently to develop and maintain Health & Water program activities to this end. These activities vary from building water pans to collecting water from underneath dry riverbeds; from capping springs to providing safe water containers and water-treatment products.

The following anecdote provides a snapshot of the difference that such interventions can make.

In Northern Uganda, four-year-old Kidega Julius lives in a community where food insecurity had long lingered and the only water source used to be a stream in a swamp, a good distance from his home. The milky-white water was shared communally with all the people and animals in the village. It contained snakes and frogs, and it was unsafe for domestic use. With donor support, FEED constructed two shallow wells in Kidega’s village so that clean water is no longer scarce. Children can drink it, parents can cook with it and everyone can wash with it.

Clean water and proper hygiene also make a huge difference in nutritional outcomes. It doesn’t matter how healthy a child’s diet is, if all the child drinks and washes with is dirty water. That is why our Health & Water projects include presentations, home visits and campaigns to encourage proper hand washing and to teach communities how to avoid common waterborne illnesses.

While Kidega’s life has changed for the better with access to clean water, the UN estimates that more than 2 million people die every year from diarrheal illnesses linked to poor hygiene and unsafe water, and that 1.8 billion people still get their drinking water from a source that is contaminated with fecal matter. So this World Water Day, we at FEED hope that you are inspired to take action on WASH issues. You might decide to generate awareness in your community, donate to programs that provide access to clean water or keep abreast of how your congressional representatives vote to fund WASH initiatives. So how will you celebrate World Water Day?

Read more about our Health & Water work, and consider shopping our gift catalog to provide clean water to communities around the world.

FEED Celebrates National Agriculture Day

Written by Andrew McNamee, Manager of Public Policy

Today is the Agriculture Council of America’s (ACA) National Agriculture Day! The ACA began the National Agriculture Day program in 1973, and it has continued during National Agriculture Week every subsequent March. National Ag Day celebrates the contributions of agriculture to our everyday lives, and encourages Americans to understand how their food products are produced and the role agriculture plays in the economy.

At Feed the Children (FEED), we gratefully recognize the critical role America’s farmers play in our shared prosperity. Thanks to continual innovation and research, the U.S. enjoys an agricultural surplus unrivaled in human history. However, on this National Ag Day, FEED recognizes that there is still room for improvement, because prosperity in food production does not guarantee food security or a nutritionally aware population. The fact is that we still struggle to ensure that our most vulnerable children—even children in the same rural farming communities where so much food is produced—have access to a healthy, nourishing diet. FEED has spent nearly four decades working to fill in the gaps, whether through food distribution by our trucking fleet, the delivery of backpacks containing food and hygiene essentials, or the provision of summer meals to food-insecure kids when school is out. FEED works with donors, volunteers and corporate partners to make sure that our country’s food security and nutritional health match our agricultural accomplishments.

FEED is also active internationally, with programs in 10 countries, working to share America’s agricultural abundance with the world. You can learn more about our domestic programs here and our international programs here. You can also learn more about U.S. agriculture and National Ag Day here!

Ending Child Marriages in Africa: Sian’s Story

Sian is a hardworking, talented and beautiful 13-year old girl. A student in Kajiado County, Kenya, she devotes herself to her studies and her family and thinks about her future.

For Sian and other children her age, especially girls, that future can be uncertain and full of anxiety. Child marriages are still a common practice in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. Currently more than 700 million women living around the world were married before their 18th birthday. More than a third of those were married before age 15. The most dire statistics come from South Asia, with 41% of girls marrying before age 18, but West and Central Africa follow closely behind.

According to a 2014 report from UNICEF, girls who marry before they turn 18 are less likely to remain in school and more likely to experience domestic violence. Young teenage girls are more likely to die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth than women above 20; their infants are more likely to be stillborn or die in the first month of life.

Sian with her mother
Sian with her mother

As a talented and hardworking girl, Sian would be an attractive focus for suitors. Once married, she would likely not see a classroom again, instead focusing her energies on taking care of a household. By the time she is 20, she could have 3 children or more. Hypothetically, when those children reach the same age as Sian, the cycle would continue.

The issue of child marriage is further complicated by the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, a custom that has been banned in many countries but is still practiced covertly in many communities. In early 2014, Sian’s mother started to prepare her for “Emurata,” a Maasai word for the practice. Once Sian went through the practice, her community would see her branded as a ‘mature woman,’ ready for marriage.

Research shows that FGM and child marriage profoundly and permanently harm girls, denying them their right to make their own decisions and to reach their full potential. These customs are detrimental to the girls themselves, their families and the society at large. There can also be profound long-term medical complications from the practice.

Tuesday, June 16 is the Day of the African Child, an annual event to bring awareness to issues facing young people on the continent. This year’s focus is on child marriage—on children just like Sian. The African Union has addressed the practice of child marriage and sees it as a hindrance to the development of the continent, not to mention the affect on individual girls and families. Child marriage is a complex issue that is driven by a number of factors in different societies. To turn the statistics around will take the power of many—government, communities, churches, leaders and other experts.

Supporting girls as they reach full adulthood is one of our missions at Feed the Children. One month before Sian was due to undergo Female Genital Mutilation, Sian’s mother attended a community event sponsored by Feed the Children. During this session, community members came together to discuss the effects of FGM and also to promote Alternatives Rites of Passage (ARP). This training was designed and planned in conversation with parents, community members, and local leaders to gain their confidence and enhance ownership around changing this cultural practice.

Armed and equipped with the right information, Sian’s mother sent her daughter for a one week training organized by Feed the Children on ARP. During the training, Sian and 40 other girls were empowered with information on life skills, sexual health, child rights and responsibilities, and mechanisms for reporting in case of violation. The girls developed a strong bond within the ‘ARP-movement’ as they shared their fears for the future, but rejoiced in their new knowledge and empowerment—especially once they saw the support from parents and community leaders who want to see them thrive. Through our work and the partnership of many others, Sian and her peers will be allowed to be children for a few years longer and dream big dreams for themselves.

This year’s Day of the African Child is themed “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa.” To mark this important day, let us take a moment to reflect on areas of improvement in order to save the young from getting into marriage at a time that they are barely teenagers. To end child marriages is not easy given that culture is complex. To end child marriages comes with a call for different organizations to work together as a bloc. It calls for an open discussion by stakeholders at the community, national, regional and continental levels, and coordination between them in order to accelerate the end to this practice.

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Following the one-week training, the girls went through a graduation ceremony. There was a great turnout by the parents, community leaders and government representatives. Here the girls rejoice and dance at the ceremony, champions indeed—and they can thrive even more with you in their corner. Learn more about our international development work, or browse our gift catalog for education-related items to help make the difference in the life of a child like Sian.

–Reporting by Seintje Veldhuis of Feed the Children Kenya

Emergency Relief Coming to Malawi

Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, experienced torrential rains this week, resulting in rampant flooding due to late summer storms.  Although this is the region’s rainy season, Malawi has not seen flooding like this since 1964.

These deadly floods submerged villages and destroyed crops and livestock.  This disaster is especially devastating because 8 of every 10 Malawians earn a living through agriculture.

An estimated 200,000 people have fled their homes, finding themselves suddenly without access to food or shelter.  Already, almost 200 people are reported missing or dead.

Feed the Children currently operates community-based programs in more than 625 communities in Malawi and its team on the ground plans to focus its initial relief efforts in Nsanje, Chikwawa and Salima, three districts designated as priority areas for assistance by Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management. Feed the Children’s efforts in Salima district will benefit from our strong program presence in that area and our ability to mobilize there quickly.

Working in partnership with Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management, we are swiftly responding to this disaster with the help of Nu Skin’s Nourish the Children (NTC) Initiative and Proctor & Gamble. We are distributing tens of thousands of bags of Nu Skin’s VitaMeal to provide meals for the displaced.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief to Malawi flood victims, please visit our website.

(Image above from the UN).

Hope for the Future: Kindergarten Graduates in Uganda

In some parts of the world, like in the US, registering your child for kindergarten is truly an emotional step. Your baby is a baby no more. Their educational journey has begun. Countless tears are shed in anticipation of the great change in developmental status.

But, Mom and Dad’s emotions aside, thanks to public schools, beginning and then graduating from kindergarten is a natural first step for five and six year old children in the US. Parents don’t worry that there won’t be a building or what’s most critical–an opportunity for their child’s learning to flourish.

The same is not true for early learners in Northern Uganda.

In designated settlements without early learning centers, kids simply stay at home until primary school begins in the 1st grade.

Yet, thanks to the generous child sponsors of Feed the Children back in 2013, all of this changed for a group of very excited and eager kindergarteners. The Sunrise Early Childhood Development Center opened its doors near Gulu, Uganda.

Starting small, a group of four qualified teachers and three support staff welcomed 23 preschoolers. At preschool, the kids learn the alphabet (A to Z) and counting. They also begin to learn colors, different types of animals, greetings (morning/evening greetings) and social skills like naming family members. Each child receives a hot meal each day provided by generous Feed the Children donors. Feed the Children has also installed physical equipment on site and provided school uniforms.

What is most remarkable about Sunrise is that it’s the only early childhood center in Twonokun, a village with over 1000 households. The kids who come to Sunrise are the lucky few.

Now, Sunrise hosts 124 children, many of whom now receive three meals a day from our staff–getting vital nutrients needed for their growth and development.

Sunrise hosted it first ever kindergarten graduation on November 28th of last year. (In Uganda, the school term ends for Christmas holidays late in November). It was a happy day indeed and lives on as a day for rejoicing!

With clear skies above, and the atmosphere bright and cheerful inside; children lined up for the festivities. A total of 30 children participated in this first graduation ceremony at Twonokun Village.

As part of the program, the graduates recited facts they’d learned and shared songs and dances with their adoring parents and caregivers, who gathered to watch the festivities.

sunrise ECDC parentsIn speeches, the local leadership voiced their support towards the continued growth of the Center. The parent representative exclaimed “Thank you so much Feed the Children for making sure our kids are fed at school!”

One Feed the Children staffer observed of the mood of the children on their special day: “Their faces were visibly excited. It was a happy day to rejoice in the voices of the children and their hope!”

Following a beautiful ceremony of dance and skits and crowned with a football (soccer) tournament that was arranged by the youth of Twonokun; community members entertained parents.

The day concluded with the official dedication of the school. The centre also serves as a day care centre for other families which means that children of less than 3 years also have access to porridge and a lunch meal!

We are thankful that we can participate in the joy of making moments like these happen in Uganda. We know that as they study hard, even with the challenges, that their future is bright. Congratulations, graduates!

Christmas Cheer in Honduras

Throughout the world, we champion children. We work with teachers, principals, mayors and religious leaders to help children thrive in their schools, homes and communities.

But did you know that we run two full-time residential centers in Kenya and Honduras for boys and girls who are abandoned or whose parents are unable to care for them?

When it is possible, we seek to reunite children with their families. But many of the kids continue to be under our supervision until they turn 18. What a great responsibility it is to care for them; for they are ours!

DSC_0526For this reason, our President and CEO, Kevin Hagan feels it is important for him to celebrate Christmas at these two centers every December. He wants the kids to know the joy of Christmas like all kids should!

Recently, we told you about Kevin’s visit to Kenya, but today we want to share more about the Christmas celebrations at Casa del Nino in La Ceiba, Honduras.

At Casa del Nino, Feed the Children Honduras cares for 35 boys from age 7-17 every day of the year. Some of these boys have come to us through Honduran social services. Others have come through referrals in communities where we work. But together they have formed a family.

IMG_2194And one of the year’s highlights for the boys of Casa del Nino is the annual Christmas celebration.

On Wednesday, December 17, the boys and staff,  Regional Director for Latin American operations Francisco Torres and Kevin and his wife, Elizabeth Hagan gathered around tables in the courtyard of Casa del Nino for gift giving, music and a Christmas feast.

Each boy asked for just one present. They were elated to receive their single gift –simply new shoes to play soccer or a remote control car.

Before dinner, the boys shared prayers, songs and even a skit with the group. They expressed their appreciation to all the Feed the Children donors for giving them a safe place to call home over the last year.

Christmas dinner was extra special because it was prepared by some of the older boys themselves. These boys are interested in becoming chefs when they grow up, and we’ve enrolled them in culinary classes for the last five months.

So, with some assistance from their teachers, the boys prepared a traditional Honduran Christmas meal: tamales, chicken and pork, yellow rice, potatoes, tomato, pepper and cucumber salad and rolls.

After dinner, each boy and staff member received a glow stick necklace and bracelet! As you can see the boys posed proudly for pictures with them on.

Even though it soon started raining, joy at Casa del Nino was uncontainable. They played with their new toys. They laughed and laughed with the staff members. And they gave Kevin Hagan lots of hugs. Even one boy said, “Thanks for remembering us at Christmas. It feels good that we aren’t forgotten.”

IMG_1736 2A DJ later played some traditional Honduran Christmas songs and the group danced and danced and danced. Some of the boys had their faces painted. The staff joined in with the children as well. One staff member later remarked, “This is what Christmas is really all about!”

Their faces overflowed with gratitude for such a fun Christmas celebration. Thank you Feed the Children donors and child sponsors for making moments like this possible.IMG_9014

Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds. Communication lines and electricity have been damanged and roads are impassable around the affected areas of Dolores and Cataingan. The extent of the typhoon’s impact remains unclear.

Before the typhoon made landfall, some 717,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated. An estimated 133,000 families are staying in 1,758 evacuation centers across the affected regions.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Masbate, Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.

Typhoon Hagupit puts Feed the Children Philippines on alert

Another potentially devastating Typhoon has landed in the Central Philippines where thousands of families were displaced by Super Typhoon Haiyan last November.

Typhoon Hagupit (locally known in the Philippines as Typhoon Ruby) has slowed as it moves over land, which can create major flooding from the heavy rainfall, in addition to potentially damaging strong winds.

Feed the Children is preparing for a potential worst case scenario. Here are some important pieces of information about how we will respond.

Our staff will be regularly checking with community leaders in the local communities we serve. Mobile kitchens will be established in affected areas, providing hot food fortified with VitaMeal. Bags of rice and bottled water will also be provided to children and families.

The Feed the Children team in the Philippines is planning to initially establish disaster response feeding stations in two provinces (Bohol and Cebu) to prepare hot, nutritious meals using VitaMeal, mixed with rice, milk, chocolate powder and sugar.

We’re working closely with local leaders, parents in the communities affected as well as groups trained and formed by Feed the Children Philippines, along with local government units and public schools. It’s expected that up to 30,000 persons will need 150,000 meals as a direct response.

In other areas that may be severely impacted by Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby – namely in the provinces of Leyte and Samar) Feed the Children will mobilize to establish additional disaster response feeding stations. It’s forecasted the worst hit areas of the Samar provinces will need 107 feeding stations. A total of ten partner organizations are expected to assist us with those efforts.

Information on additional disaster response plans will be updated into next week once an assessment of the situation is completed.

If you would like to support our organization as we provide relief after this storm, please visit www.feedthechildren.org/hagupit.