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Sh100 initiative feeds hungry Isiolo families


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Sh100 initiative feeds hungry Isiolo families


One Hundred Shilling initiative group leader Zeinab Ismael in Isiolo. PHOTO | POOL

Fatuma Waqo was 17 years old when she lost her mother in 2016, their family’s sole breadwinner following the death of her father some years earlier.

Her mother’s death forced her to assume parental roles on her younger siblings including her sister who was suffering from cerebral palsy while her elder brother who had earlier completed secondary education became the family’s sole provider.

To take care of her ailing sister who needed special attention, Ms Fatuma dropped out of school while in Form Two at one of the local secondary schools in Isiolo.

“Owing to my sister’s health condition, my brother and I decided that I drop out of school to take care of her as he looked for manual jobs to sort our basic needs,” she says.

The brother would borrow a motorbike from a friend and run a bodaboda business within their home in Checheles, Wabera ward in Isiolo North Constituency.

Whenever the brother returned home empty-handed, she said, good Samaritans came to their rescue by donating food for that particular day.

“We lacked on several occasions, but we never lost hope. My brother kept encouraging us that someday things would get better,” Ms Waqo said during a recent interview.

The family would five years later be selected to benefit from a monthly food aid by a group of women dubbed the Hundred Shilling initiative meant to cushion orphans from hunger.

Fatuma says they had on many occasions before landing the aid heard of philanthropists helping the needy but wondered why such groups never reached out to them.

“When they visited us three years ago to assess our situation, we could not hold back tears.

“We were elated that we would no longer sleep on empty stomachs,” she said amid tears.

Group contributions

According to the group’s leadership, the idea was born out of a desire to restore dignity to families hard-hit by the persistent drought that has affected livelihood in more than 20 counties for several years.

The group started with about 30 members each contributing Sh400 every month in bits of Sh100 a week but has since increased its membership to over 200.

“We started taking care of five families, but the number has risen to 27. Whenever we recruit new members, we also increase the number of beneficiaries,” group leader Ms Zeinab Ismael said.

Through visiting different villages within the area, the group members identify needy cases and then later analyse them to come up with the most vulnerable families.

The group that operates within Isiolo Central collects at least Sh80,000 monthly which is used to purchase shopping hampers for the beneficiaries, an initiative that has been in place for three years now.

Every household receives 10 kilogrammes, six kilos and 5kg of maize flour, wheat flour and rice respectively and three litres of cooking oil enough to take them for at least one month depending on the number of dependants in the family.

“Our aim is to ensure we reach out to as many groups as we can and share the little we have while also encouraging other people that you do not need to be rich to help one another,” Ms Ismael noted.

During national religious celebrations, the members double their contributions to ensure their beneficiaries have fun like other Kenyans.

“We ensure they have enough (food) during festivities as well as other necessities,” she revealed.

Ms Madina Ali, 60, who takes care of eight grand-children following the death of her three children is also a beneficiary.

She says for two years now she has been getting food aid on a monthly basis relieving her of the struggle as she has no reliable sources of income.

“I no longer struggle to fend for them since the group came on board,” she said in her local dialect.

Another recipient Ms Imatu Bonaya who lost her husband a decade ago hailed the group for assisting her to take care of her children.

The mother of five says her situation worsened when she recently lost all her animals to the ravaging drought and had to rely on well-wishers to provide for the family.

“I used to rely on friends who were also struggling with their needs for survival, but since the Hundred Shilling initiative came to my rescue, I no longer need to keep borrowing,” she stated.

More in need

While the group takes pride in putting smiles on the face of their beneficiaries, they decried rising cases of needy families that they said would only be exhausted through concerted efforts.

Lamenting over the triple tragedy of the desert locust, coronavirus pandemic and ongoing drought, the group members appealed to the government and well-wishers to support them in reaching out to more families who are reeling from the biting effects of famine and drought.

“Many families initially depended on pastoralism for source of income, but that is no longer the case because they have lost hundreds of animals to drought,” Ms Ismael lamented.

They have urged the government to find a lasting solution to drought as they maintained that giving food aid was just a short-term solution to the pangs of hunger.

“The government should consider giving the affected families some cash so they can start business ventures and also set aside funds to sink boreholes in areas where residents rely on livestock. We cannot rely on relief food forever,” said Ms Hussein.

Recent data from the National Drought Management Authority revealed that the county’s drought situation was currently at the alarm stage with 30,000 households requiring food intervention.

County NDMA Coordinator Mr Omar Abdi called for a concerted effort saying that the elderly and children were the most affected with the latter at risk of acute malnutrition.

“Half of the county’s livestock population has also been affected and we need everyone’s effort to salvage the situation,” he recently said.

The county government recently rolled out relief food distribution to 24,000 hunger-stricken families across the 10 wards in the region.

Governor Abdi Ibrahim Hassan revealed that his administration has suspended all development projects to focus on mitigating the effects of drought.

“We cannot focus on development when our people are dying from hunger,” the Governor said.

He said his administration would set aside funds in the supplementary budget to drill boreholes as well as agricultural extension services for improved farming and productivity.

“We want to ensure that in the next two years our county is food secure through diversifying into crop farming,” he said.

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