Drought produces famine in Kenya

Much of central Africa is suffering from drought, which has caused a famine.
Much of central Africa is suffering from drought, which has caused a famine. The New York Times

“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat…”

Matthew 25:35

As Idaho emerges from horrific flooding, a drought-induced famine has led to widespread suffering in Kenya.

My earliest recollection of hunger was in the mid-1960s. We ate one meal a day, at night. It was Ngima ya muvya, dough made of millet flour. It tasted like soil. But we had “food.” In 1972, another famine again consigned my family to one solid meal at night and porridge for lunch.

Most famines in Kenya are caused by lack of rain. When there is enough rainfall, most people, even those who live below the International Poverty Line as stipulated by the World Bank ($1.90 a-day), are able to feed themselves with subsistence farming. In Kenya, those considered to fall in that category are 45.9 percent of the country’s population of 43 million people. Most do feed themselves and can sometime also pay necessities such as school fees or medical needs. But 100 percent of their livelihood depends on rain.

Unfortunately, most of Kenya’s land, 82 percent is either arid or semi-arid land, regions that have erratic and unpredictable rainfalls. The main livelihood activities are pastoralism (raising of cows, goats, sheep and camels) and/or subsistence farming — raising food crops for one’s household.

The country, like other countries in the sub-Saharan region suffers from drought-induced famines every few years. Cattle die for lack of grass and shrubs. Most of the population were nomads before their way of life was changed by colonists. When famine struck, they would move to other areas in search of food and water for their livestock — a major cause of the perennial tribal wars.

There is also an acute lack of basic food stuffs, mainly maize, during famine, which affects all segments of the population. With such scarcity, prices skyrocket, thus forcing millions of poor people to dependency — depending on handouts — just to survive.

Both famines of my youth were short-lived and families were able to return to reasonably diverse dietary portions. But what the country is experiencing now brings me bad memories of students fainting in class because of hunger. Just as the famine was beginning, one of the board members of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope (CHHH) in Kenya told me she saw kindergarten children having only water for lunch in one of the elementary schools.

I grew up with that reality. In some parts of the country, schools had to, and still do, close to allow pupils to scavenge for food. During the famine of 2007-09 Johnston Kiseve, a pastor I have known for 32 years, talked of how hunger had forced women, even churchgoers, to unthinkable acts of prostitution to save their children. Keep in mind the repercussions of their desperate decisions in populations suffering from AIDS/HIV epidemics.

All students sponsored by CHHH come from such families and there is an extra element of danger for our girls. A number of boys and girls from such families may see their studies curtailed as they are forced into child labor, hoping their small income might improve survival chances for their families.

Some girls however, may be forced into early marriage, especially those from families that don’t encourage women’s education. When a girl is married, the family receives dowry — mainly goats, sheep, cows. That is seen as a necessity during famine in addition to the fact that there is one less mouth for a poor family to feed.

You can help save lives and keep our sponsored students in school and protect vulnerable girls from being forced into early marriage. We have about 300 students of whom 250 are girls. Most live with their grandparents or widowed mothers. A grandmother or mother/guardian picks them up from boarding school for school breaks.

That is the time we plan to provide them with maize flour to take home. With a donation of $75 you can provide a family of four to six with enough food for a whole month. One hundred percent of the contributions will be used to help mothers feed their children. If you have any questions, please call me at (208) 376-8724.

Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or

The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.

To help ...

Mail a check to Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope Inc, P.O Box 7152, Boise, ID 83707, or donate online at This is a non-profit program — Federal ID # 27-3127770.