Lucy Ikai, 22, Nabahaker village, Lokichogio Turkana, Kenya. Photo Credit:Joy Obuya

Innovations helping families cope with the drought in Turkana

There’s something about children. Their innocence is powerful and pure. They seem to make any difficult situation seem like a walk in the park.

We meet 3 year-old Abigael, from the village of Nabahaker, she is peeping from the safety of their grass-thatched house. Abigael is brave, and immediately wraps her little hands around her mother as if to protect her. Sharon, her little sister, lies on the dried up goat skin on the floor - innocent and oblivious of her surroundings.

22-year old Lucy is the mother to these adorable young girls. She got married at the age of 9 to a man who is 20 years her senior. Thirteen years and two kids later, she is back at her parents ‘boma’. Her husband decided to take in a third wife. Taking another wife meant neglect of the former wives. Lucy could not take it. She left.

 “I should have stayed in school, instead of getting married, ” she says. “But, he promised me a good life and I believed him”.

“Life has been difficult. My Kids deserve better.  I have to clean people’s houses to be able to buy food and water for my family.  Those odd jobs are hard to come by in our village and they do not pay enough”.

 “We have had nights when we have slept hungry for up to two weeks due to lack of water.  Without water, there is no food. We have to walk long distances looking for water; sometimes we come back empty handed”.

We are interrupted by Sharon who is now seeking attention from her mother. Lucy places her on her lap and starts to breast-feed. “I am happy that I can now breastfeed; I now have access to water and food”.  She pauses for a minute. “Hii watu ya Oxfam Wamenisaidia sana” –  {The Oxfam team have been of great assistance}.

She is talking about Oxfam led Resilience Consortium which is piloting the use of the e wallet using the  HSNP (Hunger Safety Net Programme) mechanism  to provide rapid emergency response through both unconditional and conditional cash transfers to vulnerable populations in Kakuma and Lokichogio, Turkana County. Oxfam through financial support from EU humanitarian aid is reaching 1000 households (6000 people) through unconditional cash transfer of KES 1600 cash giving families the flexibility to address their immediate needs and conditional cash of KES 900 which they specifically use to access clean reliable water when they want it from the water services departments and vendors. 

Lucy, a beneficiary of the emergency response cash transfer mechanism received her KES 1600 unconditional money which she used to buy food for her family and is currently redeeming water worth KES 900 through the e-wallet mechanism.

“I have used part of that money to buy food and clothes for my kids as well. Through the E- wallet program Water is no longer a luxury. My kids, no longer have to sleep hungry and my elderly parents do not have to walk for long distances”.

The target population carries their HSNP card with an e wallet function to an Equity Agent and tells the agent how much water they want. The agent gives the beneficiary a receipt for the amount of water required; each 20 litre jerry can cost KES 5 (0.05 euro). The HSNP e-wallet cardholder then gives the receipt to the water kiosk vendor and draws water equivalent to the amount of cash redeemed. The e-wallet mechanism allows for flexibility, better planning, dignity and choice to the beneficiaries to access clean reliable water when they need it.

I ask if she is planning to go back to school, she laughs me off and says she is a mother now and has no time for anything else. “ I was happy when Oxfam selected me to be a beneficiary of the E-wallet programme. Now my kids don’t have to go hungry due to lack of water. The rivers have run dry. With water we have food. The only way to access water is through the watering points. E-wallet has made accessing that water very easy”.