Wajir is an arid region of northern Kenya populated mainly by Somali pastoralists. There have been a series of dry years going back as far as 2006 making the 2011 drought particularly devastating. Even before the drought reached its peak last year, more than half the cattle on which the people depend for their livelihoods and as a store of value had died. The resulting food crisis has increased issues which need urgent attention.
Ensuring health workers can reach people in remote or hard to reach villages is a crucial part of the aid effort. There is a mobile health clinic, supported by funds from the DEC East Africa Crisis Appeal, that visits 62 sites including Wachir village (near Wajir, northern Kenya). It provides primary medical care and also screening of malnourished children. Children are weighed and their weight is compared against their height; they also have their upper arm circumference measured. Both these techniques are used to estimate whether the child is malnourished and if so, how badly. Children who are severely malnourished are referred to stabilisations centres which are supported by Save the Children in Wajir District Hospital and Islamic Relief in Griftu District Hospital. Children who are moderately malnourished are enrolled in a supplementary feeding programme which means they get Plumpy'nut – a ready to eat, enriched peanut paste in a foil packet - which meets all their nutritional needs. Common medical problems apart from malnutrition include pneumonia and malaria.
In Wachir 2,000 people have had health consultations and 100 children have been enrolled in the supplementary feeding programme.
Habiba (picture above with son Mohamed) and her husband lost three of their thirteen children during the drought. They used to rely on their herd of 50 goats for milk, meat and an income but now all the goats have died. They are now completely depended on the food aid delivered by Islamic Relief.
Habiba is still breast-feeding Mohamed but he fell ill with Diahorrea and became severely malnourished. “When Mohamed became sick I thought it was because the family were not eating very often. I thought ‘this is making the child sick’ and I feared I would lose him. I tried to console myself by thinking ‘god is there and he will make sure I get help’. I brought Mohamed to the Islamic Relief clinic and they took us to the hospital to take care of him. Mohamed is making progress and I am getting food to help me feed him. I am very happy but my community needs more help. We need to start growing crops – vegetables, maize, watermelon and papaya – and we need pumps for irrigation. Since the cattle died all the men here are idle and we need to make a living. I thank you for the help we have received and for listening to what I have said.”
Read more on Islamic Relief's work in East Africa.