Schools are just days away from opening here in the United States. In newspapers and on local access channels, you might soon start to see school lunch menus appear. It’s a very important, albeit seemingly routine, part of the school year.
But a world away in Kenya right now, that school lunch is literally a lifeline for families trapped in the massive drought that has hit East Africa.
Many families are unable to support themselves, following the loss of crops and livestock. Imagine losing your livelihood, and your sources of food start to dwindle. Where do you turn for help?
In Kenya the UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides school meals for children. This is a vital safety net that families are counting on; but this source is under severe strain.
Charles Njeru of the World Food Programme in Kenya told me Monday: “The situation has drastically changed since the last time we communicated…. Our school feeding programme has been severely affected by the drought. We have seen an increased influx into schools, especially as more children are attracted to school by the food.”
The World Food Programme works with the Kenyan government to provide school meals for children. A massive drought has caused food shortages making children vulnerable to dangerous malnutrition. (file photo provided by WFP/Francesco Broli)
WFP is currently feeding 678,000 children under its Kenya school feeding mission. Even though schools are closed in August, they have kept the meals program running because of the urgency of the crisis. But the need is more widespread, and WFP wants to scale up its school meal response in Kenya.
Njeru says: “WFP requires funding to provide meals for approximately 200,0000 additional children in arid areas of the country affected by the drought. This figure is likely to continue rising as the drought intensifies through the months of August and September which are traditionally the driest months of the year.” This additional funding would total $6 million for 12 months of feeding.
The children are in some of the areas hardest hit by the drought, including Turkana, Moyale, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera districts.
Throughout East Africa, WFP needs to expand its school meal reach and sustain it over an extended period. Now is the time to act to keep an already tragic situation from becoming much worse.
You can donate to the East Africa Relief Fund at the World Food Programme.