A Four emaciated children sit alone in the scorching sun outside their house in Tambalal village in West Pokot County.
As we approach the gate, one of them crawls away. The children, between the ages of two and seven, look sickly.
Neighbours say their mother left after a row with her husband.
The villagers add that the children’s father is a labourer and an alcoholic. The four children do not go to school.
A neighbour, Lilian Tiamale, says the abandoned children have not eaten for a week.
“When we came here, their eyes were white and they could barely walk because their legs were swollen. I went back home and brought them milk and flour. Their father later came and sold the food. I came back with more and cooked for them,” she says.
Mrs Tiamale adds that the children were diagnosed with typhoid and malaria when she took them to a local dispensary.
“A child collapsed during the assembly recently because he had not eaten for days.”
School feeding programmes have been disrupted by the ravaging drought.
Tambalal Primary School Deputy headteacher Emanuel Kasiwai said the institution had not received food for 10 years.
“A child collapsed during the assembly recently because he had not eaten for days,” he said, adding that the number of pupils had dropped from 400 to 200.
The school has no feeding programme.
Sarimach Primary School headteacher Wilson Lonoki asked the government to send food to schools in the area. “Children living along the border go to school when there is food. When there is no food they stay at home. This has really affected education standards in this area despite peace prevailing for a year and a half now. We don’t have food for our children. The prolonged drought led to crop failure,” he said.
Lonoki said that the pupils spend their days walking for more than 15 kilometers in search of water instead of attending school. “We fear that learning could be affected long term if the situation persist,” he said.
Even before the current drought West Pokot had the highest rate of malnutrition – stunting and wasting – in the country. Nearly half of children under five years of age in the county are stunted and more than a third are underweight, according to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. The national stunting average rate is 26 per cent and underweight average rate is 11 per cent.
Kapenguria County Hospital receives 70 -100 children affected by malnutrition per month.
Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto and other leaders raised concern after the World Food Programme left the area.
Education Director Tom Mboya said pupil numbers in some schools had dropped by 75 per cent.
“Schools are given money for food but sometimes it is not enough and not every institution is covered. Sometimes what is provided only covers 10 weeks yet the term goes for a longer period,” he said.