Biting hunger as bad roads hinder relief food delivery

Hunger-stricken villagers lie along Chemolingot-Kolowa road in Tiaty waiting for relief food on April 7.
Eight elderly emaciated men and women lie under a shade at Todo Primary School in Kolowa, Baringo County

Hardly 30 metres from the shade is a group of men building a classroom. The construction workers occasionally prepare lunch and  share it with Lotudo Lokuriang and his group, but this is never a guarantee.

Lokuriang says hunger drove them out of their homes to the school in January. When school was in session, the teachers would share with them porridge meant for the children. But since the school closed for the holidays, their misery has worsened.

“When we saw some construction going on, we came here hoping to get some food from the men at the site,” says the father of seven.

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He strains to speak. “In this place, there is only hunger and starvation.”

Lokuriang urges the government to assist the elderly and children who have been affected by the drought to get some food.

“Let President Uhuru Kenyatta know we have not received anything in the name of relief food from the government. We have nothing,” he says.

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He adds that for the last six months, he has not even received the money meant for the elderly.

He says all his cows were driven away by cattle rustlers believed to be from Elgeyo Marakwet.

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A few kilometres away, Chebochongil Kokwo, 70, and her 15-year-old grandchild sits under a tree outside her home in Kitopas village.

Kokwo cannot move around. She depends on her daughter-in-law, who leaves every morning to an unknown location to look for food.

The girl says her mother usually comes back late in the night, sometimes with little food, but most times without any food. Kokwo says she has been surviving on water. On a lucky day, she gets a cup of porridge.

She says she was abandoned by her two sons after the situation got worse. Her three daughters are married elsewhere and never check on her. She says she heard that the government had launched a relief food programme, but she is yet to get even a kilogramme of maize.

In Marsabit area in Tiaty, 65-year-old Chebochesum Kolime, who is blind, lives with her deaf daughter. Whenever they hear there is a food donation, her daughter leads her there. But they always return home empty-handed. “My daughter has been helping. She works hard to feed me. We have not received any food from the government,” Kolime says.

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Chebokale Riwen from Chebanda village says they boil leaves from a tree commonly known as Sokoria. “The leaves are what sustain us, despite the constant diarrhoea after eating them.”

The mother of eight makes ornaments, which she keeps, hoping she will meet a buyer and get some money for food.

Area MCA Solomon Loluka says relief food is yet to reach residents in the interior parts of the ward. When he found a group of elderly men and women seated under a tree by the road waiting for help from nowhere in particular, Loluka sought assistance from the office of the Assistant County Commissioner at Chemolingot. He was lucky to get 20 bags of maize.

Children were sucking on empty feeding bottles and other bottles were filled with dirty water.

Loluka says each sub-location with a population of approximately 2,000 has been allocated 16 bags of maize. “How would over 2,000 starving people share 16 bags?” Loluka asks.

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Baringo County Commissioner Henry Wafula admits hundreds are starving in the region. “The government is aware, however, the food donation we get will not satisfy all households,” Wafula says.

He says it is difficult to transport the relief food to the interior parts as there are the roads are bad. So far 2,500 bags of maize have been supplied to the entire Baringo County.

“This food is not enough but I have agreed with Governor Stanley Kiptis that we work together to have the issue addressed,” Wafula says.

Governor Kiptis says there are plans to increase food supply, especially to the remote areas.

He says the county government has launched a partnership with World Food Programme and over 4,500 households will benefit from Sh2.4 billion cash transfers.

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