Since drought ravaged 13-year-old Flora’s community in Kenya, her mother Zawadi has struggled to provide for her six children. One morning, Flora’s hunger pangs became unbearable.

As dawn rises, 13-year-old Flora wakes from her slumber. The sun is painting the sky a beautiful bright pink as it makes its daily ascent. Flora quietly gets herself ready for school, careful not to wake her five siblings who are curled up asleep next to their mother, Zawadi, on the floor of the single roomed house in Muyeye, Kenya.

Flora’s tummy begins to rumble. Screaming out for nourishment, Flora momentarily soothes her hunger with a hot cup of strong tea for there is nothing else in the house. She then brushes her teeth, pulls on her school uniform and silently creeps out of the house.

When Flora finally arrives at school, she struggles to concentrate and begins to zone in and out. Barely two hours after Flora left, Zawadi received an urgent message from the school—Flora has collapsed.

A few classmates carried Flora to the edge of the playground and in a frenzy, rushed to call the teacher on duty who administers first aid. When she regained consciousness, Flora described her ordeal.

“I struggled to concentrate in class all morning,” Flora explains amidst tears. “By 9 o’clock, the hunger pangs were unbearable. I just felt my energy fade away and I fell on the ground.”

This is a devastatingly common occurrence for Flora and her siblings. Many days are spent hungry, fearful and not knowing where the next meal is coming from, or when.

What is the East Africa drought?

During October to December 2016, rainfall decreased significantly across the East and Horn of Africa. There had already been three consecutive years prior of diminished food production and pastoral resources. This sustained period had already severely decreased people’s capacity to absorb another food shortage. As a result, over 23 million people on East Africa were in need of food assistance.

Were Compassion countries affected?

The drought had an impact on Compassion assisted families in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Many families were left without reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food and clean water. If upcoming rain seasons don’t suffice, the drought will have a far-reaching effect on our church partners, especially those based in arid regions. More intervention will be required to sufficiently meet their needs.

Zawadi has lived under the unforgiving shackles of biting poverty since childhood. For years, Zawadi has struggled to put food on the table and clothes on her children’s backs. She has done every odd job imaginable in order to fend for her large family after being abandoned by her second husband.

“When Flora fainted from weakness as a result of starvation, I was heartbroken,” says Zawadi as tears well up in her eyes. “That feeling of not being able to provide for your children makes me feel helpless. I had no option, I decided to turn to Compassion.”

Zawadi’s family was among 5,000 beneficiaries from 50 Compassion assisted churches that received immediate relief in alleviating hunger among the children affected by the drought. Families received bags of rice, beans and maize meal flour.

“We were able to provide them with some little food assistance for the short term, but we were cognisant of the fact that we needed to work on a wide scale intervention since many other families were in the same predicament. Sometimes the requests are so many that we give from our own pockets,” says Eva, a local project director.

Not Enough Food To Eat-1

But the churches also prepared for long-term planning to provide Compassion assisted families with strategies to lessen the impact of drought in the future. Caregivers were provided with micro-loans and income generation training to mitigate the risk of future droughts.

“We provided the families with seeds for a vegetable garden where they can cultivate tomatoes, onions and other vegetables they can consume at a household level. This has the ability to improve food security and nutritional diversity of the household. It also helps households save money and the surplus vegetables are sold for additional income,” says Eva.

As consecutive seasons of drought scorch harvests and ruin livelihoods, it’s become increasingly important to empower children and their families through education and providing long-term practical interventions to help mitigate the effects of drought. Families have benefitted from certified seeds and modern farming technologies such as green houses that help to increase yield by reducing pests and diseases, while conserving available water for irrigation.

“The food relief has been instrumental in protecting vulnerable children from hunger. It has offered them a well needed source of nutrition, essential for their mental and physical development. With a full stomach, the children can focus all their energies on learning at school,” says Eva.

Compassion’s response to food security

Because Compassion’s program is delivered through the local church, our response is centred around supporting and resourcing the affected churches to best meet the long-term needs of their communities.

Our local church partners that are strategically located in some of the drought-prone areas are offering contextual interventions that enhance food security to children and their families.

During program days, children receive nutritional support—often in the form of meals—that mainly consist of local staple foods such as rice, beans, corn flour, sorghum, bananas, potatoes, beef, milk and a variety of vegetables. School-age children often benefit from school-feeding programs instituted by government agencies.

Our local church partners in these regions continue to identify families who are in high risk, and they’re providing additional food rations or supplements in the short-term. As well as this, they are instituting long-term measures such as education on farming methods that employ simple, yet modern technologies, micro-enterprises that diversify and increase income sources for families, as well as revolving funds which encourage caregivers to save and lend to each other at sustainable interest rates.

Church partners are also reaching out to local agencies to garner more support towards affected families in their respective communities and arranging rapid disaster assessments for areas where there’s potential need.

“I received 10 kilograms of rice, beans and maize meal flour. A great burden was lifted off my shoulders. Now my children could eat until they are full for a few months. I was able to save money I had used to buy vegetables and other food items. I am very grateful, and I thank those who made it possible. This was God’s blessing to us,” says Zawadi.

Compassion’s Where Most Needed fund means we are well equipped on a global scale to deal with issues as they arise, for food crises cannot wait until tomorrow. Giving to Where Most Needed helps fund initiatives that our church partners have identified as most critical at this time.

Give today to help meet the most urgent needs of children like Flora in their fights against poverty.

Your gift will go to where most needed; because there are situations today that can’t wait until tomorrow.

Words by Isaac Ogila, Rebekah Wilesmith and Monique Wallace. Photos by Ben Adams.