Two year old Malik stopped walking a few months ago due to a suspected case of Polio. The last time his mother Khalima Matagundo visited a health facility was when Malik was born.
World Concern in partnership with the Kenya Government’s Ministry of Health, is making it easier for families like Malik’s to access medical care through mobile health clinics across 14 villages.
Through support from Netherlands Reformed Congregations, 101 children have been dewormed, 24 malnourished children have received nutritional supplements as well as 3 adults. 41 children have been immunized, 12 of them aged 3 to 6 years were immunized for very first time in their lives. 92 adults have also been treated for diseases such as malaria and typhoid, as parental health talks and antenatal care services continue.
Tana River County is suffering from the effects of drought. As a result, local households have depleted their savings and assets and their purchasing power has been greatly reduced.
For families like Khalima’s, the nearest health facility is far away. When ill, they either have to walk, pay exorbitant fare to limited transport operators or cross the crocodile infested River Tana using hand made water canoes.
“I am sad that my son is unable to run towards me anymore when I get home,” said Khalima.
The mother of eight however, is relieved that World Concern has brought medical practitioners to the area and is hopeful that her last-born-son will not go through the same fate as Malik.
Through your support, World Concern is facilitating movement of qualified government doctors to reach families in dire medical need. World Concern is also providing cash transfers to 1,000 vulnerable families to help them access food.
The food situation in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas is bleak. Families in Kenya are facing severe food shortage and livestock deaths due to extreme vegetation deficit. As at February 2017, the percentage of children at risk due to malnutrition increased to 20.1%.
In Lamu and Tana-River Counties, where World Concern operates, the situation has been further complicated by human-wildlife due to scarcity of water and vegetation.
Being the only fresh water lake in Mpeketoni, Lake Kenyatta plays an important role in both community livelihood and supporting the wildlife ecosytem. As the lake dries up, human-wildlife conflict is escalating in the area.
On a year that will be remembered as the worst in a generation unless we intervene now, World Concern is responding.
An infant’s smile, giggle or mispronunciation of a name they are fond of.
An artist in their full expression
People so tightly knit by their aspirations that they give themselves unreservedly in the quest.
I met such people, a week ago when I visited Narok – tightly knit and working towards a goal together.
Individuals, one-after-another, could tell what their group goals are, and what they are parting with daily, to achieve. Especially seeing how concerned members are, to each other made my heart tender through and through.
From the Latin “conspirare” – which means “to breathe together,” I would say they are conspiring to succeed.
Through World Concern’s ASCA’s (chamas), groups are facilitated to make financial and social goals and then individuals work towards them, all the while monitoring each other’s progress.
One such group (Dupoto Self Help Group), set a financial goal to save Kshs. 300,000 by November, 2014. This saw each member increase their weekly savings from Kshs. 100 to Ksh 315. This September, the group will hold a party to celebrate attaining the Ksh 225,000 milestone.
Social goal: ‘Each member will replace their house mud-roof with iron sheets by November 2014.’ To do this, member are making individual savings from their businesses. “At the end of year, we shall visit each other’s houses to see if this has been attained,” said group secretary Regina Koinag.
They have become families, ‘breathing together’ as it were, as members get involved in each other’s lives in a way they had never done before.
Below, a few people I met. . .
I was ill in December 2013. Since it was on a Monday, I was waiting for my husband to sell a sheep on market day (Wednesday) in order to raise my transport money to the hospital. However, the Dupoto group quickly mobilized funds on that very day and I was rushed to hospital. I returned on Tuesday. That action really motivated me, and reignited my commitment to the group – Alice Meegisho
We voluntarily decided to raise separate monies to purchase 20 ewes, one for each member, every week. Yesterday, we completed the round, and 8 members have reported that their sheep have given birth already. We will now decide on whether to purchase calves for each member as the sheep project is now complete – Regina Koinag.
I have learnt that poverty diminishes the mind, but where there is hope, the mind expands. World Concern training on saving and businesses management has expanded our minds – Jonathan Limo.
Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) by World Concern initially consist of around 12 self-selecting members (though will often grow spontaneously to 20-25 members)
Our training includes setting up group governance structures, business management and new investment opportunities.
ASCAs allow savings to accumulate into an increasingly large pool from which members may draw loans. Eventually, the group may even offer loans to people outside of the group.
Interest earned on loans devolves to the group as wealth is created and redistributed within the community.
According to Trainer Evans Nyaga, members have been able to settle medical expenses, school fees and even start businesses.
As we celebrate humanitarian heroes on this year’s World Humanitarian Day (WHD), some heroes who saved an infant’s life, come to mind. They risked the wrath of a community by calling off a day-long mobile health clinic at midday, in order to save the life of a boy who might never know their names
During the fast paced horn of Africa drought, the health situation was dire and together with partners Medical Teams International (MTI), World Concern ran weekly mobile clinics across half a dozen villages.
These villages were located on both sides of the Kenya-Somalia borderline, and reaching them often involved long distance travels on bumpy, risky and sometimes impassable roads. One particularly difficult journey still sits in my mind.
It involved an infant whose life was on the edge. Although treatment had been administered, he got worse. To rescue his life, we’d have to take him to a hospital about 3 hours away.
Driving on top speed was crucial, but bumps on the rough terrain compromised an intravenous drip running from the ceiling of the car to his veins. This was his lifeline.
We winced at each bump on the road, and agonized watching his mother desperately trying to keep him still. He had only a few hours to live, the medics warned, and the possibility of losing a precious child, right before our eyes was disturbing.
Being largely remote, villagers had either walked or been carried for long distances in order to arrive for the weekly mobile clinic but with their situations stabler, these medics gambled on helping save his life.
It paid off as the boy eventually recovered. He might never know, but some heroes helped save his life.
On this year’s World Humanitarian Day, I toast to you!
Sometimes I get to stare into the souls of people I talk to, when they let me; and each time I revisit a community, our connections rekindle again, no matter our language barriers.
Visiting Lamu again this time, brought a mixture of anger and confusion.
Anger because Lamu had been one of the most peaceful areas that World Concern operated in. Now the innocence gone, and with it lives of some of our partners.
Confusion because I couldn’t understand how the scale of grisly attacks was rising each day, and yet no one seemed able to contain it by week three when we visited. Frankly, I felt like a jilted lover. By who? I couldn’t tell.
Our first day in Mpeketoni was bad; our second day in Hindi was terrible. I remember my colleague saying,
“You should see a psychiatrist.”
“No, YOU should see a psychiatrist!”
We half-joked, knowing well that we badly needed closure.
Listening to grim real life stories was sobering, especially seeing powerful emotions roll off adults so effortlessly. Men the age of my father told me that they were afraid. I saw families eat just plain rice as the only day meal, because they had no alternative. In fact many would go for days without a meal (and still are).
A teenager, barely 16 years old shared photos of such gruesome murders to an extent that my colleague stayed awake for nights, yet this boy was living with them in his phone; in his mind.
Although I got to capture stories with some level of success on the first day, the second became extremely difficult.
I had trouble concentrating on any more testimonies of human agony. The photos I took that day were either too exposed or too dark, too out of focus or too poorly composed. After each session I would ask myself, “what is happening with me today?”
Knowing that our resources were limited, and that the people in so much agony were ordinary people like me, was disturbing.
We ended our first phase of emergency response hearing the voices of hundreds of grateful vulnerable women and children whom we assisted. But we also left tens of residents trying to raise just bus-ticket monies to flee a place that reminded them daily of unimaginable horrors that had befallen them, yet they couldn’t. Also, many were hungry, and their mental health delicately unsteady.
Today, as I document each story, their voices of anguish and hope urge me on. I write silently hoping that my words sit uncomfortably in the heart of my reader to make them want to do something!
“Am not feeling well today, something is ailing me.”
“What is wrong?”
“I don’t know, am just not happy.”
Although my neighbor offered me supper later on, I declined. At around 8pm when she (my neighbor) was having her meal, an impatient thought came: ‘Where would I hide if someone came to attack us?’ And I was suddenly overcome by fear.
I took a torch and went around the house. When I checked my goat pen, I thought, here is just a perfect spot to hide.
Earlier that day, droves of monkeys had run towards our direction. They were chattering in groups. Loudly. ’What if they are trying to tell us something?’ I remember one of them was especially brave, as he ran right past us, then the rest followed.
But now it all makes sense because not one of them returned to the direction of the forest.
‘Why did I not I run away even after such clear signs?’
‘Don’t let these men shoot me’
As soon as I returned to the house, about 50 rough looking militia emerged. They ordered us to lie down and disassembled our phones.
“Dear God, please do not let these men shoot me.”
Miriam Mwenje’s life and those at the compound were spared, but she prays that by the grace of God, she can forget it all. At the time of the interview, she was making rounds in town, exhausted, a large brown leather bag on her shoulder. This has become her routine, before heading to Hindi Prison for the night. She tethers a handful goats here.
Due to lack of privacy at the compound, simple things like finding a place to change her clothes have been difficult.
World Concern has assisted to shield her from cold nights by providing a mat and blanket for her, together with other vulnerable women. 400 of them.
The biggest challenge for residents at the small Hindi village at the moment is in finding sources of income as there are little or no opportunities for labor. We are assisting, and the march is far from over.
Probably the most inconvenient night to be born. Instead of fireworks, live ammunition rocked her first few hours on earth. Besides, she was born right inside her young parents’ house, because going to hospital that night would have amounted to suicide.
Doing their best now, they can hopefully reassure little Christine Mapenzi that it’s not such a bad place after all.
As I interviewed her dad, Charo Safari, it struck me that, although just in his late twenties, he is walking a tight rope – leading his young family right after the gruesome Mpeketoni Attack . Yet with a calm, confident voice, he detailed his daily routine, never realizing how deep his words sunk. . .
1. A man/ father is punctual
Charo rides his wife and 3 children on a bicycle to Hindi Prison every day. Despite the fact that he spends his day keeping his farm secure from wild animals, he ensures that his family arrives at Hindi Prison by 4:30pm, making them among the first every day.
Their motivation is to book an old cage-like piece of furniture, which serves as a perfect cot for Christine. It not only provides a more comfortable padding at night by keeping her from sleeping on cold cement floor, but it also enables her parents to hang a mosquito net on it. With high ceilings at the prison hall, mosquito nets are difficult to prop up leaving many infants unprotected at night. Charo knows this.
2. A father sacrifices
On the day of the interview, Charo had sold a valuable item: his phone, in order to support his family of five because his income streams had run out. “This money (Ksh 1000/ $12) will keep us going for the next two weeks,” he said.
Among his daily expenses include a loaf and packet of milk for Catherine’s dinner and his two sons, aged 3 and 7 years old. “Today I didn’t manage to purchase any milk for her,” he said, fishing out the loaf and margarine from a black polythene bag. Further, he also opts out of supper, preferring to use their coffers sparingly.
3. A father protects
The reason Charo spends daytime at his farm located at a potentially dangerous zone, about two hours away (on a bicycle) is to guard it against destructive monkeys. He hopes to salvage some during harvest season and put some money back into his pockets again, soon.
World Concern has partnered with the displaced to provide mats and blankets to assist vulnerable mothers like Catherine (Christine’s mum) at Hindi Prison. Together with their infants, they can now shield themselves from the cold, drizzly nights at the hall.
Like I found Lawrence King’ori casually seated inside a police station, something few would do in an ordinary world. But this is no ordinary world. This is Hindi town in Lamu, Kenya. For nights the 60 year old would rather book himself inside the cold gates of Hindi Prison than sleep in his house.
It’s twisted I tell you. In fact, Lawrence has not been to his house since July 5th, the fateful night. On that night a gang of about 50 men was marching towards his house when his neighbor alerted him. He ran, ran and ran.
“Two minutes saved my life,” says Lawrence.
I would say he’s been running since, as gory images haunt him every day. He wanders around the town as if to try and feel normal again.
Lawrence previously lived on the fringes of Hindi, where a dozen residents were razed.
He reveals how life is shaping up now. . .
How are nights like at the prison compound?
Children cry at night and there are many disruptions, but we’re slowly getting used to it. You talk to the one next to you, until you drift off.
Why won’t you sleep in your house?
I cannot. The few times I tried to go back, I got a sickening feeling and my legs refused to carry me any further. I had to turn back. My neighbors who attempted, say that they saw fresh footprints in the area.
Would you return when your attackers are freely roaming about?
Describe the emotions you are going through
After what I saw . . . The things that happened to people I knew. . It’s a mixture of anger and fear. But you have to suck it all in, as a man, what else can you do?
What is your most urgent need now?
Food. In the morning we drink some black tea as we walk out of the prison gates. On some days, that is all we have for the day.
What happens to your farm now?
Even with a lot of food, it cannot help me. I have left it for the wild animals. I cannot return.
Lawrence is among 3,000 residents spending nights at Hindi Prison who bare cold nights, and though they have farms with ready produce, they now have to depend on relief food to survive.World Concern is currently assisting the most vulnerable groups.
What started as an ordinary crime to the unsuspecting mind . . .
. . . quickly turned into a disaster. A situation was unfolding right in front of us, and in seconds social media went ablaze.
I was tracking it all, silently hoping that security personnel would arrive quickly enough to stop the madness. But that took a long while, on a long and agonizing night.
Too numb to call any of my friends, I made a chain of incoherent uncoordinated prayers, already shaken to do much else. Yet journalists were yet to unwrap the horror that residents went through, and they did a few days later:
Despite heavy deployment of security personnel, the armed bands of about 50 men have continued to prowl on more defenseless men executing them in cruel fashion. Today marks day 40 of an unending scene of real life horror. The impact is massive.
I witnessed it a week ago, when World Concern set up camp to assess and assist hundreds of displaced people. Even though some humanitarian organizations have exited the area, it is time to respond! Residents need help now. We cannot sit and wait when lives of people less fortunate than us are at risk.
For me, this is a chance to respond to the likes of Boniface who cried out on that night. It is a priceless opportunity to assist families who have lost their fathers, and all they care about.
I interviewed Catherine, a young mother who bore a beautiful baby on the fateful June 15th. She bore her right at home, because she couldn’t dare to step out. But she named her Mapenzi. Now Catherine is doing all she can to feed and keep her baby, warm; but it’s not easy.
I spoke also to elderly farmers who left their animals caged more than a fortnight ago, but they have not returned to their farms since. Now they roam around town centres like paupers, some dressed in the same clothes they were in, that night. You have limited options when all you escaped with was your life.
They live in fear. At night, about 3,000 men, women and children seek refuge inside a prison. Imagine that. . . Here, they sleep on cold cement floor each night, or out in the open. On some nights rain falls, but the halls are too full to occupy anymore. In fact, rain pours into the hall through the dilapidated roof.
In the next few posts, I will share some of these stories with you. Real life experiences of brave men, women and children who are doing all they can to survive. They are trying. But they desperately need warm clothes, tents, medicine, food-including food supplements for children and psychological support.
Currently, about 5,000 people are seeking refuge in 4 IDP camps: Mzee Kamenya (80 households), Ndeu (86HH), Mzee John Musembi center (38HH) and Hindi Prison (505HH).
World Concern is in Lamu responding to this emergency crisis, and we need your help.
Do you have skills, or life-saving supplies that can support these families in some way? Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
The cause of the current crisis in Lamu could be a complex tussle for resources which has manifested itself in the shades of religious intolerance, politics and terrorism – leaving behind a trail of disrupted lives, livelihoods . . . and a thick cloud of tension on what lies ahead.