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World Food Day: Millions in Kenya Suffer Hunger, Drought

FILE - Locals residents carry a boxes and sacks of food distributed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in Kachoda, Turkana area, northern Kenya, Saturday, July 23, 2022.

A man-made water basin was built to bring some security of water supplies to this area of Kalifi County in Kenya. But it now lies dry and empty within the aptly- named Arid and Semi-Arid Lands of East Africa.

According to the Red Cross, the country is experiencing the third consecutive year of drought, an estimated 3.1 million are threatened with severe food shortages.

Across the whole region of east Africa, 4.2 million people face serious food insecurity, according to the Arid and Semi-Arid Land Humanitarian Network (AHN).

Experts say the drought is the result of changing weather patterns.

Many people in Kalifi County rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living.

It's a struggle for them to gain access to training, finance, innovation and technologies that might help them survive, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

People in Kalifi County struggle to put food on the table. Many water sources have run dry, forcing residents to walk long distances in search of water.

Farmers like Dama Kahindi are turning to other ways of making a living.

The mother of nine now produces charcoal, the resulting carbon contributing to the climate change which has created this drought.

"The last time we farmed and got produce was five years ago. That is why we are cutting trees to make charcoal in order to feed ourselves," Kahindi said.

She walked to a children's clinic where medical workers do what they can to stave of malnutrition, giving mothers packets of concentrated nutrition to feed their babies.

Among them is Maureen Nehemangala.

"We have been very dependent on farming. Now it's been so long since it rained, that has become a big challenge and now we don't have food. In short, we are getting food but it's not what is needed, it's not a balanced diet," she said.

The clinic's nutritionist Norman Wanyama is not optimistic:

"The reports and even the situation around is getting worse in a sense that we are looking at the numbers that we get in our facilities in terms of children who are malnourished, and this could be as a result of food insecurity occasioned by the drought situation. There is an upsurge of numbers, we are getting numbers increasing, unlike before."

Kalifi government official Priscilla Khadija walks through the dry land that was once a basin which secured water for local people.

"This water pan was constructed by KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) in the way of reducing water shortage, but we were only dependent on rain and for the last, I think four years we have not experienced any and you can see the area is very dry, so the people around here are suffering a lot," she said.

Purity Kizao and her fellow farm workers have dug wells to irrigate their farms when drip irrigation was no longer possible.

They've been fortunate because the international children's charity World Vision was able to support with micro irrigation kits.

This is where small amounts of water are slowly and frequently dripped through tubing, applying closer to the target crops with less waste.

"Last year and this year the climate changed and when it changed, we prefer to use drip irrigation. Last year we planted but the rain was scarce due to climate change, so we decided to dig wells and we use that water to irrigate the crops, we have continued with that method this year. Whoever planted crops without drip irrigation did not harvest anything," Kizao said.

World Vision's Larry Mwendwa said thirty households have been given the irrigation kits.

"These households are producing enough food for their children and even they have had surplus that they are actually helping the people who did not harvest anything from their farms due to the drought," he said.

But ensuring people are getting the right nutrition is still a struggle.

Humanitarian organizations are bringing supplies, but they can't meet everyone's needs. And in the meantime, drought continues.