August 5 2011

First relief convoy to famine-hit northern Kenya

05/08/2011 - A team of ten SOS co-workers is leaving today with a 20-ton truck loaded with food for the famine-hit area of Marsabit in northern Kenya to assist in SOS Children's Villages' relief operations there. As security cannot be guaranteed, the situation in Marsabit is critical.

Food in the storage room
Sacks of maize stored in the SOS Children's Village Buru Buru, before they are transported to Marsabit - Photo: M. Peru
The humanitarian relief convoy leaves Nairobi on 5 August accompanied by an SOS team. The relief consignment is a 20-ton truck loaded with bags of rice, beans, cooking oil, unimix (enriched maize and bean flour designed and used to fight malnutrition) and maize. Marsabit district has been particularly affected by the raging drought: this has not only led to acute shortage of food and water, but also to closure of schools. Thousands of school children have now dropped out of school and have joined their parents in search of food and water. “We will be working with six schools in Marsabit,” says Mr Ochieng, one of the SOS co-workers. “We will initiate the distribution of unimix, maize, beans and sugar. Schools will reopen again. This will be a good start for SOS Children's Villages. We will also monitor and assess the situation of children there.”

Inspiring the community with hope

Although providing food meets the most urgent need of the population, SOS Children’s Villages is also “going there to inspire the community with hope”, says Joel, another co-worker. 

Security cannot be guaranteed

Team of SOS co-workers
Team of SOS co-workers in Nairobi before their departure to Marsabit - Photo: M. Peru
According to Joel “the relief work is going to be a challenge”. The situation in Marsabit is critical and “security cannot be guaranteed as there are a lot of tribal rivalries in the area ... and when we come with food, this may attract many other people on the ground”. Another challenge will be the logistics of distribution – “we may be forced to put people on queue”. Teachers will also help the team “make sure that food is distributed proportionally and, of course, our priority is on children and mothers”. 


The SOS team is not only facing challenges in terms of security. “I expect the weather to be harsh”, says co-worker David. “We also know water will be a problem because the water in the wadi (river bed) is salty”. Apart from the need of interpreters “there will be plenty of scorpions, snakes and tse tse flies …”, Joel adds. “And the weather will be hot in the day and cold at night.”

Talk less, do more

Nevertheless “we are happy to go there”, team member Patrick says. “Hearing about it is something, but seeing it with your own eyes is something else. We are going to tell the world what is going on in Marsabit and people will support our cause.”

"We need to be shocked at times in life”, Ochieng adds, “especially when we are having an easy life. If you think things are tough, spare a thought for these people. People complain about trifling matters, like traffic jams, or about the rain or that it's too hot or too cold, and then you see these people starving. We can raise awareness once we are there and see what's going on on the ground. And we always keep in mind what [SOS Children's Villages' founder] Hermann Gmeiner used to say: 'Talk less, do more'."

SOS Children's Villages' relief efforts focus on five villages

Millions of people in northern Kenya are facing hunger and an uncertain future, as the drought continues to destroy their crops and livestock. SOS Children's Villages will focus its relief efforts on five local villages, namely: Hula Hula (2,550 people), Manyatta Ginda (1,850 people), Milima Mitatu (800 people), Manyatta Jillo (3,000 people) and Kijiji (1,920 people) in Marsabit town. These villages are the poorest in Marsabit and those most-affected by the drought. 

According to the United Nations, over 12.4 million people are facing the real threat of starvation, with entire families and communities abandoning their homes in desperate search of food and water. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia remain among the countries affected worst, with Djibouti and Eritrea also at risk.