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UNICEF and ECHO combat effects of drought in northern Kenya

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1464/Bonn
Nangolol Esekon from the Turkana ethnic group carries home her 11-month-old daughter, Narutom, after the girl received treatment for malnutrition in Lokichoggio, northern Kenya.

By Chris Niles

LOKICHOGGIO, Kenya, 17 April 2009 – Life is a constant struggle for the nomadic Turkana people of northern Kenya. This remote, vast and impoverished region has suffered severely from drought in recent years.

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In response, UNICEF is working with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department, also known as ECHO, to alleviate the toll that drought takes on an already fragile people.

‘They are starving’

Nagolol Esekon has brought her daughter Narutom to the UNICEF-supported African Inland Church Health Facility in Lokichoggio, about 30 km from the Sudanese border. The clinic operates under the auspices of the Samaritan’s Purse Nutrition Programme in Turkana district.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1459/Bonn
Narutom Esekon sits on her mother’s lap outside the African Inland Church Health Facility in Lokichoggio, Kenya, after being treated for moderate malnutrition.

Narutom has been vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea. Medical staff diagnose her with malnutrition and malaria. She is vaccinated, given vitamin A tablets and put on a supplementary feeding programme designed for children under the age of five who suffer from moderate malnutrition.

Narutom is just one of the more than 30,000 children and women the centre has treated since opening in 2006.

“We admit babies who are moderately or severely malnourished with severe medical conditions like anaemia and hypoglycaemia, those who do not have appetite and those with oedema,” says clinic nutritionist Vicki Jerop Binott. “They have a problem with food shortages. They have medical conditions. They are starving, most of them.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-1456/Bonn
Health workers weight five-month-old Ekeno Echoda in a sling scale at the African Inland Church Health Facility in Lokichoggio, Kenya, after Ekeno’s treatment for severe malnutrition.

Treating effects of malnutrition

ECHO support ensures that UNICEF has the most up-to-date information about the areas of greatest need in the region and can respond quickly and effectively when new crises arise – such as the severe drought of 2008.

Prompt response is critical because a child’s entire developmental future can suffer if he or she does not get help in time.

But baby Narutom will not suffer the long-term effects of malnutrition. After making good progress at the clinic, she is able to come home with her mother, who is delighted by the tremendous change she has seen in just a few days.

Her mother has been given therapeutic porridge for Narutom, along with instructions on how to prepare it. Although she is worried about how she will continue to provide for her family from the small amount she makes selling firewood, she knows that Narutom will continue to receive help from the health facility’s outpatient programme.

“We are going to be taking care of her,” pledges Ms. Binott.




UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a UNICEF-ECHO partnership that is feeding children in northern Kenya’s Turkana region.
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