Voices from the Horn of Africa: Hassan and Mariam

Hassan, a herder, talks about how the drought has affected his family—especially his daughter, Mariam.
Hassan with his daughter Mariam
Hassan with his daughter Mariam. Photo: ACF-Kenya

Hassan is a father who knows what it means to worry. His small daughter, Mariam, is three and a half years old, and she has already faced death. The frail little girl weighed just 23 pounds when a team from Action Against Hunger arrived in their small town of Eskot, in central Kenya, to screen children for malnutrition.

Mariam, like so many other children, is a victim of hunger caused by droughtin this case, the worst drought in decades. The village of Eskot has not seen rain for two years. Farming communities have seen their crops destroyed and are forced to watch their animals die one by one. For many, livestock is the only source of income and without their animals families have no means of providing food for their children.

“Mariam is malnourished because of the drought," says Hassan. "Before, we used to give her milk from our herds. I had 20 camels, 20 cows and 60 goats. Now I am left with barely any – the drought has killed them all. The only goats I have left are wasting away and cannot produce milk. I do not know how to feed my daughter."

Mariam has been supported by Action Against Hunger's teams for the last four weeks, and is receiving highly nutritious foods four times per day, which she can eat at home. Initially her weight increased before falling again. She was in a fragile state and needed special monitoring. Now, she is improving rapidly and attends regular sessions with her father at Action Against Hunger’s therapeutic nutrition centers to monitor her progress.

Hassan gives his little daughter a kiss as they sit in the waiting room. Mariam looks like she's going to make it, but that doesn't mean Hassan has stopped worrying.

“You know, I do not know what the future will hold for Mariam," he says. "I would have liked her to go to school, but I do not have enough money to buy supplies or books for her. I do not even have any means to feed my child.”