Rose Tino with Turkana women during a drought response field visit.
Women, girls, boys, men and aid workers are #NotATarget
The selfless sacrifice of thousands of men and women who put their lives in harm’s way to relieve the suffering of millions caught in protracted conflict, famine; or epidemic is often untold. They die two deaths. First by abandoning their families, social networks, their own lives, to bring much-needed water, food, medical care, protection and even visibility to the real issues driving suffering. All aid workers experience the first death. However, some may never escape the second death; where, they like those whose suffering they have gone to relieve, become victims. As we honour aid workers who have lost their lives in the call of duty and the many millions locked in crises all over the world, I begin to chide and curb my sense of entitlement. Some crises may appear dwarfed when compared to others. But no crisis; drought or conflict is better or worse than the other; they all rob off women, girls, boys, men a life of dignity. In Yemen, Syria, Mosul, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia to Kenya. All crises must be addressed with the expediency they deserve.
About 3.4 million in Kenya are in need of food assistance as a result of a drought that is ravaging 23 of 47 countries following two failed rain seasons. By September this number could rise to 3.7 million. This drought crisis has not been greeted with the necessary expediency and is ‘not-a-target’ of the international community because, in its scale, it is much less than crises in South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The Kenyan government has so far put in place a drought response plan and invested funds in the response but the number of people reached is too few, and their capacity is overwhelmed thus requiring more support. A few institutions including Oxfam have stepped in to compliment the government’s efforts to deliver assistance in the form of cash, repairing water sources and providing nutritional supplements and food to malnourished children, pregnant and lactating mothers. However available funding does not match the scale of the crisis as the drought masks much more than is seen.
20% of children have dropped out of school to migrate from their homes and undertake casual labour to support their families. Rings of sexual exploitation are growing, with girls as young as ten engaging in survival sex for as low as KES 100 (1 USD) and women undertaking domestic work as a coping strategy facing threats of sexual violence such as rape, before receiving their payment. Cases of domestic violence are on the rise as spouses fight for the little resources available to meet their basic needs. As families are forced to break during drought; street families are a growing concern. Defilement and rape are on the rise, and almost 100% of cases go unreported for fear of shame. Families are forced to settle the cases for little cash, livestock pay outs; to use the compensation for drought relief. Girls are married off on credit, with families taking dowry payments in instalments to support their families that are now forced to take in 3 to 5 times more people than their usual size. On the other hand; the institutions that support the children welfare are stretched and unsupported. The protection of women and girls and boys lacks in the overall drought response in Kenya.
As we mark the World Humanitarian Day 2017, we call on governments and world leaders to prioritize and invest in the protection of women, girls, boys, men and aid workers caught in disasters.
Let us remind the world leaders that civilians, aid workers, women, girls, men are not a target.