First Lady Margaret Kenyatta today visited drought stricken families in North Horr to both empathize with the affected residents of Marsabit and also join Kenya Red Cross Officials in the disbursement of the much needed cash-transfer funds .
The First Lady also visited the North Horr Health Centre where she witnessed mothers and children undergoing mass screening for malnutrition triggered by drought related food deficiencies. Malnutrition levels in Marsabit County Stand at 30 per cent and 34 per cent in North Horr Sub County.
After acquainting herself with the impact and magnitude of the drought and the food crisis in the County where mothers and children are the hardest hit, the First Lady gave a firm assurance that her office will not just sit by and watch Kenyans suffer from lack of food.
“I, for one, assure everyone here who has been affected by the drought, that my office will continue to support relief efforts and that you will remain in our hearts and our minds”, the First Lady told the residents of Marsabit, which is among the 23 Counties currently experiencing serious food shortages related to depressed rains since last year.
She donated a second Beyond Zero Mobile Clinic to Marsabit to supplement the current clinic that serves the most expansive County covering an area of 75,750 square km.
The First Lady also flagged off three lorry-loads carrying an assortment of relief food destined to various parts of the County.
Of the 23 Counties affected by the current drought, the hardest-hit counties border the ecologically fragile IGAD region that includes Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Djibouti. Marsabit borders both South Sudan and Ethiopia to the North.
The Government recently declared the current drought a National Disaster and, together with county Governments , International Partners and Corporate Organizations , has started rolling intervention measures to alleviate the suffering of 3 million Kenyans facing starvation.
The First Lady described the current challenges of food shortages in Marsabit as difficult but expressed optimism that Kenyans, will stand together with their suffering compatriots in the spirit of “Kenyans for Kenya”.
“It is encouraging to be here seeing so many Kenyans come together in the face of a tremendous challenge. The Government together with the County Governments have moved in with speed to support the affected families. Their efforts have been complemented by many local and international partners”, said the First Lady at Baraza Park, North Horr .
She said the Kenya Red Cross is doing a commendable job by coming up with innovative and realistic interventions that not only include the Cash Transfer Programs (compared to the previous method of food hand-outs) and also buying off livestock threatened by the drought , slaughtering them and distributing the meat to the affected populations for free.
The First Lady witnessed first-hand the distribution of free meat to the affected families at the Baraza Park. The animals, mainly those threatened by drought , were acquired by the Kenya Red Cross from the local people, in a process that also empowers the local residents economically rather than waiting for their animals to die for lack of pasture.
“It is encouraging to witness today the spectacular response of the Kenya Red-Cross—along with many other stakeholders—to this crisis. Today I have witnessed innovative and realistic interventions that are making a difference to many affected families”, said the First Lady after participating in the cash transfer exercise that benefitted 123 families from Qorqa and El-Beso villages.
She thanked the hundreds of individual Kenyans who have pledged to feed the affected families from their pockets saying their generosity and kindness was boundless.
The First Lady was optimistic that Kenyans will overcome the current adversity as they had demonstrated in 2011 when huge resources were again mobilized locally to safe millions of Kenyans facing starvation in another period of failed rains.
She said it was distressing for mothers and fathers to watch their livelihoods wrecked by the failed rain.
“It is difficult seeing even this glimpse of just how far spread the current drought is, and to know the hardship of the families that it has hit and threatened their promise, their potential, their futures” said the First Lady who was accompanied to Marsabit by Kenya Red Cross officials led by Secretary General Abbas Gullet and representatives from the International Red Cross.
Others who addressed the function included Dr. Gullet who was accompanied to Marsabit by officials from the International Red Cross, Governor Ukur Yattani andthe County Commissioner Magu Mutindika, among others.
Marsabit , which is home to an estimated population of 353, 258 people, is divided into four Sub-Counties of Moyale, Saku, Laisamis and North Horr. Residents and livestock of the latter Su-County are the hardest hit by the current drought.