Kenya has been suffering from droughts since 2007. Recovery is slow, and there is a need to help drought-affected populations while they build up food reserves and savings. One of the more vulnerable groups includes the nomadic Turkana people in the remote, vast and impoverished northern region of Kenya. The UN and the EU are working to alleviate the toll that drought takes on them, focusing on children.

Ethnic Turkana children and women queue for a UN-supported nutrition screening in a village in Rift Valley Province. (UNICEF/Bonn).In 2009, the UN and the EU worked with health clinics to treat children suffering from under-nutrition. In Lokichoggio, about 30 km from the Sudanese border, the partnership supported the African Inland Church Health Facility. “We admit babies who are moderately or severely under-nourished with severe medical conditions like anaemia and hypoglycemia, those who do not have appetite and those with edema” says clinic nutritionist Vicki Jerop Binott. “They have a problem with food shortages. They have medical conditions. They are starving, most of them.”

Nagolol Esekon has brought her daughter Narutom to the clinic. Narutom has been vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. Medical staff diagnose her with under-nutrition and malaria and she is vaccinated, given vitamin A tablets and put on a supplementary feeding programme designed for children under the age of five who suffer from moderate under-nutrition. Narutom is just one of the more than 30,000 children and women the centre has treated since opening in 2006.

Prompt response is critical because a child’s entire developmental future can suffer if he or she does not get help in time. But baby Narutom will not suffer the long-term effects of under-nutrition. After making good progress at the clinic, she is able to come home with her mother, who is delighted by the tremendous change she has seen in just a few days. Her mother has been given therapeutic porridge for Narutom, along with instructions on how to prepare it. Although she is worried about how she will continue to provide for her family from the small amount she makes selling firewood, she knows Narutom will continue to receive help from the health facility’s outpatient programme.

The UN and the EU continue supporting vulnerable people in Kenya with food and nutrition and in 2009 reached 1 million people. The total food aid delivered was 70,295 metric tonnes of diverse products. An average of 50,000 children under five years and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were supported each month with nutrition and supplementary feedings.