Visit to Marsabit County – Kenya

I’m in currently in Kenya on an international ministerial visit. Here’s a blog following today’s visit to Marsabit County:

Very little grows in the arid lands of northern Kenya and farmers, their families and livestock face a daily struggle for survival.

In the searing heat of Marsabit County, drought and poverty collide often with horrific consequences –  acute malnutrition rates regularly sit above the 15 per cent emergency threshold.

DFID is working constantly to prevent a repeat of the severe food crises that have devastated whole regions of Africa. And on a trip to the region, I saw today how British taxpayers are helping communities in this unforgiving environment protect themselves from disaster.

Livestock owners are able to make a good – and sustainable – living if they are able to get their animals to market. And now they are able to insure their goats, sheep and camels against the lengthy dry season that can decimate the valuable herds.

I met a group of 11 – mainly women – who told me how by paying GBP1 a week to the DFID-supported scheme, they can fund themselves during droughts and are less likely to need emergency aid.

I also sat with beneficiaries of our Hunger Safety Net Programme, which supports 69,000 households with small cash payments.

This enables families to save and pay their own way when times are hard – spending the money on food, healthcare and education for their kids without needing further handouts.

But I’m a realist. We’re not going to end hunger overnight as these programmes take time to help the poorest help themselves. That’s why we still provide emergency care to those in grave need.

I met some of the 65,000 mothers and  babies being treated for malnutrition who are also being taught how to prevent it in the future, thanks to support from the UK.

We are also strengthening the health system of the Government of Kenya so they are better placed to prepare for and respond to spikes in demand.

While few plants and crops survive in Northern Kenya’s harsh conditions, the confidence of those in greatest need has grown. Thanks to these relatively small interventions they now have a cushion to protect them when drought and poverty next collide.