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Kenya, a mother takes her 8 month old twins to a health screening.

In Turkana County, Rebekah’s 8-month-old twins Aule and Nawei are screened for malnutrition. 
Photo Credit: Marion Kwambai

Supporting Health and Resilience in Turkana County, Kenya

by Rebecca Tolia, Senior Advisor, Individual Philanthropy, Western Region

In June I had the chance to host some Save the Children donors in Turkana County, Kenya. We spent three days in 100+ degree weather driving off-road to visit communities there. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to learn firsthand about families’ immediate needs, as well as their dreams and desires for their children’s futures.

As one young woman told us, “I am a mother, an adolescent mother, and I want my daughter to live a better life than me. I want my daughter to be a doctor."

Yet it was clear, driving into the heart of Turkana County, that the most urgent need is for clean water and food distributions. In this semi-arid region in northwest Kenya where livelihoods depend on agriculture and pastoralism (raising livestock), erratic rainfall, scorching temperatures and frequent droughts are a constant challenge.

Turkana recently experienced a severe and unprecedented three-year drought, which was finally broken by the arrival of extreme rains just this past March-May. Unfortunately, the rains also triggered widespread flash floods that displaced many families. The people of Turkana were coping by eating less, obtaining food on credit and reducing nonessential expenses. I saw dried-up riverbanks, uprooted trees and homes completely washed away by the months-long, torrential downpours. But I also saw the positive impact of Save the Children’s programs.

Our first stop was to see boreholes where Save the Children pumps water provided to the surrounding communities. Following the pumping, we supply purification tablets to make the water safe to drink and bathe in. Furthering our reach, we also help with its transportation to sites such as schools and village clusters and set up infrastructure to make it sustainable for the local communities. And, where necessary, water is trucked into drought areas, and solar-powered pumps are added to water points. It was incredible to see the use of solar energy pumping water, as well as the communities celebrating something we get to enjoy so easily every day – clean water.

It was also encouraging to visit our mobile health teams, who administer vaccines, supply food and supplements, monitor and assess children for malnutrition and, when needed, provide high-calorie food products for children who exhibit signs of malnourishment. This stop was followed by a visit to the local hospital to observe the medical work being done in the children’s unit, as well as a local school where Save the Children is working to improve education standards for children, especially girls, to enable them to be more self-sufficient and help break the cycle of the poverty they face.

Although it was hard at times to observe people’s struggles, I was inspired and proud to be a small part of the Save the Children team serving the communities of Turkana County. I realized on this trip that I’ve had conversations in the past questioning whether Save the Children is an organization focused on climate change, yet for more than a decade, our work has been mitigating climate impacts and building resilience in Turkana communities and others across the globe.  

The record temperatures we’re seeing here in the U.S., and in cities around the world, demand our attention. And as an organization that serves children, we’re taking action to address the impacts of a warming climate on children who will face these effects for the rest of their lives. Through our lifesaving programs to address hunger and prevent famine, we’re helping children and their families weather crises now and in the future.

As of February, Kenya programs based in Mandera, Turkana, Garissa, and Wajir counties have reached 941,700 people. Our goal is to support the urgent needs of an additional 1.3 million children and families this year. To learn more, please view our Children’s Emergency Fund Impact Update.