The Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese has embarked on a school feeding programme in primary schools in Laikipia North to mitigate the biting effects of drought.
The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says 183,000 people are affected by drought in Laikipia County.
The church says most pupils in the area have dropped out of school while others have been married off due to lack of food in their homesteads
Fr David Ouma of the Doldol Catholic Mission Church told the Nation on Tuesday that they planned to enroll about 2,000 pupils in the sub-county in the feeding programme.
“Pupils in Laikipia North are unable to concentrate on their learning due to starvation. A majority of them have dropped out of school while others have been married off. The situation on the ground is becoming worse day by day,” Fr Ouma said.
“The entire community in Laikipia North is hungry and in dire need of help. We [aim] to reach out to 2,000 pupils during this programme and we are looking forward to feeding more of them. That is why we are urging well-wishers to join this programme.”
The Nyeri archdiocese, under the leadership of Archbishop Anthony Muheria, has been mobilising food donations that will be disbursed to the schools starting this weekend.
Father Ouma spoke when he received food donations worth Sh205,000 from students and staff of St Mary’s Boys Secondary School Nyeri, which is under the archdiocese.
St Mary’s Principal Francis Njoroge said students and staff contributed money during the holidays after a request from the archdiocese.
“During the holiday, we managed to raise a food donation of Sh205,000. We collected 10 bags of maize, one and a half bags of millet, 40 bales of maize flour and 20 bags of rice,” Mr Njoroge said.
“We are urging other well-wishers to pick up from here so as to prevent the scenario where our brothers and sisters are suffering from starvation. Kenyans should be mindful not to waste food because there are other people who do not have anything to eat.”
Sister Esther Ndonga, a religious education adviser in the Nyeri archdiocese, said the feeding programme is intended to keep children in school and encourage more pupils to embrace education.
“We deemed it right to donate the foodstuffs to schools instead of homesteads. The food will be prepared by the managements of the schools so as to reach out to all the learners and encourage them to remain in school. Those who had dropped out will definitely return,” Sister Ndonga said.
“The academic performance in these schools had gone down due to hunger but this programme will be a game-changer in that region. Archbishop Muheria has been at the forefront in spearheading this campaign of eradicating hunger in schools and we encourage all well-wishers to join us in this endeavor.”
Laikipia County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said no pupil had been reported dying from starvation, adding that the county and the national government will start distributing food to homesteads.
“I am not aware of any deaths linked to starvation in Laikipia North but nevertheless, we need to support all the kids in those learning institutions,” Mr Kanyiri told the Nation by phone.
“The county and national governments will soon be rolling out a programme of distributing food to homesteads so as to mitigate the effects of drought.”
NDMA Laikipia County coordinator Golicha Guyo told the Nation that though some rain had fallen in parts of the region, many households were affected by hunger, especially in Laikipia North.
“We have received some rain in parts of Laikipia East and Central but the situation hasn't changed much. Laikipia North, occupied mainly by pastoralists, is in need of food aid,” Mr Guyo said by phone.
He added that between 5,000 and 7,000 cattle were still holed up in
the Mt Kenya and Aberdare forests, where they were driven earlier this year in search of pasture. Some of the cattle are from the neighbouring counties of Isiolo, Samburu and Meru.
Data from the local office of the Kenya Red Cross indicates that some 2,313 cows, sheep and goats have been slaughtered in the livestock offtake programme.
The programme, overseen by the Kenya Meat Commission, Ministry of Interior, Kenya Red Cross and NDMA, involves slaughtering livestock affected by hunger and distributing the meat to locals as relief food.
Besides the meat, households affected by hunger have also been receiving food aid in the form of maize flour, rice, green grams and cooking oil, mainly in Mukogodo East and Mukogodo West wards in Laikipia North.
Of the affected 2,000 households in the two wards, 1,500 received food rations between July and September, according to the local office of Kenya Red Cross.
The food rations are meant to last three weeks, meaning the affected households need continuing support.