In Kenyan villages, drought leaves famished hearts & stomachs


SAMBURU, Kenya — Charlie Daniels (no relation to the country music legend) is in mid-sermon when an elderly woman faints. It isn't the Kenyan heat that's the culprit — it's hunger. She has not eaten in four days.

"Is there any food?" the woman's son asks. "Please, anything," he pleads. No one volunteers.

Daniels stops his sermon and retrieves a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his truck. Village women slowly feed the elderly woman tiny pieces of the sandwich.

Daniels asks why no one answered the son's plea for food.

"There's no food here," the people respond.

It's been three days — or more — since any of them have eaten.

Daniels, a missionary in Kenya, heads to a nearby town in search of food in a country that's already skeletal from famine.

Drought and famine are close cousins in the Samburu district in central Kenya. Crops have shriveled from the lack of water. Daniels' wife, Sandra, says there has not been sufficient rain since last November and livestock is dying.

In January, the Kenyan government reported more than 10 million people could be facing starvation. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group, which acts as an advisory board on issues of drought management and food security, reported in September that 3.8 million people in several districts, including Samburu, are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

When Daniels drives to the town of Kisima to buy beans and maize meal for the villagers, he uses World Hunger Funds to pay for the supplies.

As he returns to the village, the crowd has swelled from 25 to 50 as word spreads that someone is bringing food. The two 200-pound sacks of beans and maize meal will feed the families for another week.

"Thank you for bringing the food when you did," a Samburu man later tells the Daniels. "I would not be here today if you had not come with the food."

Everywhere Charlie and Sandra travel in the region, they are met with food requests. There also is a great need for medicine, rides to hospitals and money for hospital bills.

The Danielses have formed a plan with Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization, to help alleviate the hunger needs they are witnessing.

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