Isiolo Woman Rep Mumina Bonaya has appealed to the government to revive feeding programmes in schools in arid and semi-arid counties that have been hit hard by drought.
Public schools in the counties have recorded high absenteeism as a majority of households that are predominantly pastoralist grapple with climatic shocks, making it hard for them to afford basic amenities.
Flagging off a consignment of sanitary towels for over 400 girls at Mwangaza Girls Secondary, Ms Bonaya said President William Ruto’s administration should scale up humanitarian aid to hunger-stricken Kenyans and schools to ensure learning is not interrupted.
The Ministry of Education, she said, should provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls because many were missing classes because they lacked the items.
“The provisions will ensure girls remain in school and transit to the highest level,” she said, lamenting that the state and other entities were hardly focusing on menstrual hygiene.
County Director of Education Peter Nyaga said a majority of parents were unable to provide sanitary pads to their daughters as their priority was food and water.
At least six cases of learners fainting in school due to hunger had been reported across the county in the last one week, he said.
“While we focus on ensuring there is food in schools, providing girls with sanitary towels on a continuous basis is also very important,” he said.
Mwangaza Girls Principal Janice Kirimi said the provisions will help ensure students remain in school.
While five 50kg bags of rice recently distributed to the school by the government helped cushion learners from hunger, they only lasted five days, she said.
“A majority of the parents, due to economic shocks, have not been consistently paying for the meals, posing a huge threat to the feeding programme,” Ms Kirimi said.
Yvonne Kimotho, a KCSE candidate at the school, said lack of sanitary pads made girls lose confidence in themselves.
In Nyeri, Senator Wahome Wamatinga has initiated a feeding programme that targets 30 schools with vulnerable pupils in a bid to mitigate the effects of drought.
Mr Wamatinga said a majority of pupils are unable to attend lessons due to hunger.
Pupils in primary schools will get porridge under the programme.
“It has come to our attention that the majority of pupils have been surviving without meals yet they are obliged to concentrate on their studies,” he said.
“That is why I took a personal initiative to come to their aid by providing them with porridge. I felt that there was a need to intervene before this disaster gets out of hand.”
The first-time senator spoke on Wednesday when he launched the programme at Nyakinyua Primary School in Witemere, Nyeri town.
He said he aimed to reach 70 schools in his pilot programme.
“This initial stage is being implemented using my personal resources, but as we continue, I will bring more stakeholders on board. We have initiated the pilot programme with 30 schools but we want to increase the number to 70,” he said.
He called on other leaders and the business community to help pupils so as to ensure that they attend classes consistently.
“We hope to sustain this programme until the [end of] the term. I urge the leadership of Nyeri County and the business community to come together and support our children so that they [can] continue with their studies,” he said.
“We will agree as the leadership of Nyeri to set up an emergency fund [for] the school feeding programme.”
More than 55,000 people in Kieni, Nyeri County, are in dire need of food as the drought persists, says the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).
The most affected are residents of Thegu, Mugunda wards and parts of Mwiyogo, where animals have started dying due to lack of pasture, says a report commissioned by NDMA county coordinator Lordman Lekalkuli.
“The scenario is expected to worsen in the coming months and we will witness a prevalence of children at risk of malnutrition to increase as adverse drought effects,” the report says.
For the last five seasons, farmers in Kieni constituency, the bread basket of Nyeri County, have not harvested anything from their farms due to lack of rains and irrigation water.