Sh20 Million Relief Food Program for Schools Launched in Laikipia
In the aftermath of the region’s devastating drought, the Laikipia County Government has launched a Sh20 million program to supply relief food to schools.
While launching the program, Laikipia Governor Joshua Irungu stated that while more than 180,000 residents were facing hunger, the first assistance would be provided to primary and secondary schools in order to keep students enrolled.
“We are determined that we will keep all learners in school, especially those who are preparing to sit for the national examinations next month.”
“We shall distribute relief food in all the schools in the county,” said the county boss while flagging off the first batch of the food supply that included 2,000 bags of rice, 8,330 liters of cooking oil, and 185 bags of beans.
Mr. Irungu stated that he had discussed with high school principals the possibility of converting the food donation into fees for students whose parents were unable to pay to keep them in school.
“For instance, if we give out Sh200,000 worth of relief to a school, that contribution should be seen as a monetary contribution with the funds being converted into fee payment for the needy students.
The governor said the school management had budgeted for food supply.
Patrick Muli, Deputy County Commissioner for Laikipia East, admitted that some hungry students were fainting in some schools, particularly in Laikipia North.
However, government officials, including County Director of Education Charles Nyakundi, denied that any students died of hunger.
“Reports have been circulating that some pupils have died due to hunger.”
“This is not true but these are just rumours, but I want to give assurance that no pupil or student will be sent home either to look for firewood or fees,” said Mr. Nyakundi.
The intervention by the Laikipia County Government coincides with the launch of a school feeding program in Laikipia North by the Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese.
According to Father David Ouma of the Doldol Catholic Mission Church.
Due to a lack of food in their homesteads, most students in the area have dropped out of school, while others have been married off.
He spoke after receiving Sh205,000 in food donations from students and staff at St Mary’s Boys Secondary School in Nyeri, which would be distributed to various primary schools in Laikipia.
The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) plans to begin distributing livestock pellets to pastoralists as well.
In an earlier interview, NDMA Laikipia County coordinator Golicha Guyo told Nation.Africa that while some rain had fallen in the region, many households were suffering from hunger, particularly in Laikipia North.
He added that 5,000 to 7,000 cattle remained trapped in the Mt. Kenya and Aberdare forests, where they had been driven earlier this year in search of pasture.
Some of the cattle come from neighboring counties such as Isiolo, Samburu, and Meru.
Mumina Bonaya, an Isiolo Woman Representative, has urged the government to restart school feeding programs in drought-stricken arid and semi-arid counties.
Public schools in the counties have seen high absenteeism as a majority of pastoralist households grapple with climatic shocks, making it difficult for them to afford basic amenities.
Ms. Bonaya, who was delivering sanitary towels to over 400 girls at Mwangaza Girls Secondary, said President William Ruto’s administration should increase humanitarian aid to hungry Kenyans and schools to ensure learning is not disrupted.
She suggested that the Ministry of Education provide sanitary pads to schoolgirls because many were missing classes due to a lack of the items.
“The provisions will ensure girls remain in school and transit to the highest level,” she said, lamenting that the state and other entities were hardly focusing on menstrual hygiene.
According to County Director of Education Peter Nyaga, the majority of parents are unable to provide sanitary pads to their daughters because their primary concern is food and water.
He said at least six cases of students fainting in class due to hunger have been reported across the county in the last week.
He said while we focus on providing food in schools, providing girls with sanitary towels on a consistent basis is also very important.
Janice Kirimi, principal of Mwangaza Girls, stated that the provisions will help students stay in school.
While the government recently distributed five 50kg bags of rice to the school, they only lasted five days, according to her.
“A majority of the parents, due to economic shocks, have not been consistently paying for the meals, posing a huge threat to the feeding program,” Ms. Kirimi said.
According to Yvonne Kimotho, a KCSE candidate at the school, the lack of sanitary pads caused girls to lose confidence in themselves.
Senator Wahome Wamatinga of Nyeri has launched a feeding program that will target 30 schools with vulnerable students in an effort to mitigate the effects of the drought.
Mr. Wamatinga stated that the majority of students are unable to attend classes due to hunger.
“It has come to our attention that the majority of pupils have been surviving without meals, yet they are obliged to concentrate on their studies,” he said.
The program will provide porridge to primary school students.
The first-term senator spoke at the program’s launch on Wednesday at Nyakinyua Primary School in Witemere, Nyeri Town.
In his pilot program, he stated that he hoped to reach 70 schools.
“We have initiated the pilot program with 30 schools, but we want to increase the number to 70,” he said.
He urged other leaders and the business community to assist students in attending classes on a regular basis.
“We will agree with the leadership of Nyeri to set up an emergency fund [for] the school feeding program.”
According to the National Drought Management Authority, more than 55,000 people in Kieni, Nyeri County, are in desperate need of food as the drought continues (NDMA).
According to a report commissioned by NDMA county coordinator Lordman Lekalkuli, the most affected are residents of Thegu, Mugunda, and parts of Mwiyogo, where animals have begun to die due to a lack of pasture.
“The scenario is expected to worsen in the coming months and we will witness the prevalence of children at risk of malnutrition increase as adverse drought effects,” the report says.
Farmers in Kieni constituency, Nyeri County’s bread basket, have not harvested anything for the last five seasons due to a lack of rain and irrigation water.