Learning threatened by soaring drought

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By NATION TEAM
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Thousands of learners in the North Rift could drop out of school because of the hunger ravaging the region, officials say.

In West Pokot County, more than 40,000 pupils are going hungry after the World Food Programme suspended school feeding.

The county education director Tom Mboya said schools were badly affected by the dry spell.

“This has reduced enrolment. We will soon give figures of learners affected,” Mr Mboya told the Nation, adding that the hardest hit institutions are in Kong’elai, Sook, Chepkobhee and Chepareria.

“Pupils only come to school when there is food,” said West Pokot Knut Secretary Martin Sembelo.

He added that children were dropping out of school to help their parents search of water and pasture.

According to Sarimach Primary School headteacher Wilson Lonoki, malnutrition is on the rise.

The situation is not different in Baringo County. Tiaty Sub-County bears the brunt of the dry spell.

Baringo Senator Gideon Moi asked school heads not to send home learners with fee arrears.

“Livestock is the major source of livelihood here. Unfortunately, many residents cannot raise fees due to the drought,” said Mr Moi.

Leaders have asked the government and WFP to supply food to residents and schools.

The government has since announced that parents in arid and semi-arid areas will be allowed to use food to pay fees.

President Kenyatta last week said it was one of the measures the government would use to fight hunger, in addition to buying weak animals and slaughtering them for consumption.

The President, who spoke in Maralal, Samburu County, said distribution of food and water would be increased.

He directed the Devolution ministry to deal with relief matters.

“Streamline assistance being given by different ministries and let it be distributed through one channel,” the President ordered.

The Red Cross Society has appealed to Kenyans to raise Sh1 billion to help 340,786 people facing starvation in 13 counties.

The fund will focus on interventions such as nutrition, cash transfers, food vouchers, rehabilitation of watering points and animal slaughter.

“Kenyans need to donate to the drought appeal,” said Red Cross Secretary-General Abbas Gullet.

He added that the number of people in need of food aid had risen to more than two million since January and the society had expanded aid to Marsabit, Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, West Pokot, Baringo, Isiolo, Samburu and Lamu counties.

Reported by Wycliff Kipsang, Oscar Kakai, Florah Koech and Barnabas Bii

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