Drought Dries Up Wells in Eastern Kenya, Exacerbating Child Malnutrition

Villagers digging a well in Kobesa. Photo: Joan Nduta for Action Against Hunger, Kenya

Water and food shortages are rampant;
Action Against Hunger is working to provide lifesaving hunger treatment

Kobesa, a community in Isiolo County, in eastern Kenya, is remote and arid. In the past several months, a worsening drought has led to significant food and water shortages.

Right now, people living in Kobesa need to walk about five miles to access water from a shallow well that has been getting shallower by the day. Used by both people and animals, the open water source does not provide safe drinking water and poses serious health and sanitation threats if not decontaminated.

Meet Fatuma. She and her five children are surviving on just one meal a day. Like most of the men in the village, her husband Abdi is a herdsman. Due to diminished pasture and water, they have had to herd farther and farther away from the village. Fatuma’s husband is able to return home just once a month – he brings money to feed their children, but it is never enough.

“We don’t have enough food and water,” Fatuma says. “I’m worried about the health of my children.”

Fatuma and her nine-month-old son, Ami, who is recovering from acute malnutrition. Photo: Joan Nduta for Action Against Hunger, Kenya

A month ago, Fatuma’s nine-month-old son Ami fell ill: he was weak and feverish, and refused to breastfeed. She took him to the nearest health clinic, where he was assessed and diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition and immediately placed on a course of treatment.

Fatuma was sent home with rations of Plumpy’Nut, the peanut-based therapeutic food that will help Ami recover. Mother and child will return to the clinic each week for follow-up appointments and more rations until the boy is healthy again.

Shinda, one of Fatuma’s neighbors, saw her 11-month-old daughter, Zulpha, was suffering from persistent diarrhea and a lack of appetite. Together with a community health volunteer, they walked to the health center, where the little girl was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. Zulpha is receiving treatment, and Shinda will take her to the clinic every day until she recovers. “She is now feeding well, and I hope she will get stronger,” she says.

diarrhea and malnutrition - Action Against Hunger
Shinda with her 11-month-old daughter, Zulpha. Photo: Joan Nduta for Action Against Hunger, Kenya

Fatuma and Shinda’s story is all too common in Kobesa. “Due to the drought, there has been an increase in the number of children treated for diarrhea and malnutrition,” explains Asli Jattan, an Action Against Hunger-trained community health volunteer.

Action Against Hunger supports many of the health clinics in Isiolo County, helping make sure they are stocked with lifesaving supplies and staff and volunteers are trained in how to detect and treat malnutrition.

Our teams are working to scale up our programs in drought-stricken areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia and bring care closer to the communities most in need. We are screening and treating malnourished children, improving food security and livelihoods, increasing access to clean water and safe sanitation, and providing cash to improve local markets and give families immediate resources to buy what they need to survive.