First Person

Drought in Kenya: a mother’s story

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Akiru Lotege. Photo: Rankin / Oxfam

A severe food crisis and drought is now affecting millions of people in East Africa. Among the areas hit hardest is northern Kenya’s Turkana region, where many people are herders who depend on their animals—camels, cows, goats, and sheep—for both food and income.

In March 2011, the photographer Rankin visited Turkana to capture photos and stories of people affected by the ongoing crisis. Among them was Akiru Lotege, 33. Lotege, whose husband passed away in 1999, said she sometimes finds work as a day laborer but doesn’t earn enough to pay for both food and schooling for her kids. With regard to aid, “we appreciate the food, but what we really need is work,” she said. “We need to feed ourselves.”

The following is an excerpt from Lotege’s account of the challenges she faces as a mother and widow, raising her children in a time of hardship:

 “Sometimes I dream about my husband and my husband’s mother. They loved me so much. I miss them terribly. Sometimes I dream that they come to me. When my husband comes to me in my dreams he looks around and sees the state we are living in. He sees that his children are hungry and it breaks his heart. He doesn’t speak in my dream but I can see how he is feeling by looking in his sad eyes. He stays for a while and then he realizes that there is nothing he can do and he just walks way.

” When he was alive he would never allow them to go to bed hungry. He loved those children. He would always come home with food. He would do anything to make sure we had enough to eat. Always. I miss him so much. So much.

“Things were different when he was alive. This place was so different. We had plenty of cows, sheep, goats, and camels. There was never any problem getting food. We didn’t know what hunger was like. We could eat whatever we wanted. There was grass everywhere. This dry land was green. Not dusty like this.

“Most of the women here are widows. We are all caring for children alone. Some of the children here should be in college or even at university but we don’t have the money we need so that they can proceed. We have given them a basic education but it’s hard for them to go on. The challenge we have is schooling our children to ensure we can have a better tomorrow.”

 Oxfam aims to reach 3 million people–1.3 million in Kenya, 700,000 in Ethiopia, and 500,000 in Somalia—with a variety of support, including food aid, clean water, and veterinary care for animals. We are drilling and repairing wells and distributing fuel vouchers to ensure that pumps on the wells can keep operating—even if people have no money. Find out how you can support our efforts. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+