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Kilifi starving families want lasting solutions to perennial famine

By Nehemiah Okwembah | October 22nd 2021

Chief officer Agriculture and Livestock Development Kilifi County Victor Nzai (right) accompanied by the member of county assembly for Marafa ward Renson Kambi inspect maize ready for harvest at a demonstration farm at Gandini integrated irrigation scheme in Garashi ward, Magarini Sub County. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard].

There is no greater pain for a helpless mother than watching her child cry due to hunger.

In most parts of the Coast, tales of mothers, like Peninah Bahati Kitsao, who have resorted to boiling stones to deceive their children to fall asleep, are many.

In May last year, Kitsao’s story on how she boiled stones hit the national and international headlines.

Ganze, Kaloleni, and Magarini sub-counties in Kilifi are some of the worst-hit by hunger.

Sadly, children are the most affected.

“I detest politics, but I have no choice. I attend political rallies, sit the whole day under the scorching sun so that I can get at least a packet of maize flour,” said Rehema Karisa, a mother of five.

Karisa and Kenga Kabuchu are forced to walk for 15 kilometres from Ziwa la Makumba village to Plakumi chief’s office, twice a week, to find out if relief food is being distributed. 

The 65-year-old father of seven said he hoped to get enough food that will last his family for at least five days. 

“This is our life now. If I were to use a motorcycle, I would spend Sh250, but I don’t have even a shilling in my pocket.

“Life is hard, I have lost 14 cows to the drought,” he adds. 

The story is not any different for Mike Charo from Mitagonii village.

He said his children have dropped out of school because of hunger. 

“There is no food at home and in school. We share the little we get from well-wishers. We demand a permanent solution to our suffering.

“It is three years since we harvested. The drought has been one of the worst, but if we could get large dams that store water for longer periods, then we could not be lining up for relief food,” he said. 

On Saturday, thousands of residents gathered at Vitengeni Primary School grounds in Ganze, after they heard that Deputy President William Ruto was to distribute relief food. 

Amina Charo from Dipu village said she started her journey at dawn and arrived at midday.

It is a 25 kilometre-walk but she was determined to get food for her family.

Deputy President Ruto donated 1,000 bales of maize flour to the hunger-stricken residents. 

In Ganze sub-County, locals say over-reliance on State, and well-wishers for food rations, each drought cycle, has also made families poorer. 

Kilifi devolution Executive Prof Gabriel Katana said Sh84 million has been set aside to mitigate the hunger crisis in parts of Ganze, Magarini and Kaloleni. “We are in the process of buying and distributing animal feeds and water to residents,” he said. 

Sokoke ward MCA Thaura Mweni proposed the construction of an Sh36 billion multi-purpose dam, to ensure constant water supply.

The Kilifi county government has also started irrigation programmes. 

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