The ongoing drought has hit lower parts of Meru County with hundreds of school going children dropping out of school due to hunger.
According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) report the learning has greatly suffered in the semi-arid areas of Meru County which includes Igembe Central, Igembe South, Igembe North, Tigania East, Tigania West and Buuri Sub-County.
The schools in the affected areas also reported a decrease in enrolment for both boys and girls in the current term in all three levels of education.
Speaking to KNA at National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) office in Igembe South Sub-County, Mr Lolokote Sainyugu, Assistant Director, Drought Information Officer maintained that the decline in enrolment and retention of learners in the area specifically the ECDE has been attributed to stoppage of Uji programme in over 95 percent of schools.
He maintained that currently food availability in schools is minimal since there are no active school feeding programmes taking place unlike other times in which Expanded School Meal Programme (ESMP) and Community Support in School Meal Programme (CSSMP) was practised in some schools.
He added that the food and nutrition insecurity in the areas has been due to cumulative effects of below normal rainfall in three consecutive seasons which includes the long and short rains of 2021 and the long rains in 2022.
“Other drives of food security include insecurity and human wildlife conflict where in some places of Buuri Constituency and some parts of Igembe North crops were destroyed by elephants,” he said.
The officer also maintained that the cost of water is above normal in the Agro-pastoral livelihood zones such as Kachiuru, Kamweline, Kilera, Nginyo and Kithetu in Igembe North Sub-County whereby vendors are selling water at Ksh50 per 20 litre jerrican due to drying up of surface water sources.
On livestock production Lolokote said that the level has drastically dropped due to the current low contribution of crop residues to livestock feed since the crops dried up very early in the season and had not formed adequate dry matter.
“Due to the situation some livestock keepers are forced to sell their livestock so as to meet food requirements at home,” he said, adding that others have gone to an extent of encroaching Meru National Park so as to get pastures for their livestock.
Lolokote called upon both county and national government to intervene in the situation especially in the drought alarming areas like Kachiuru, Kamweline and Kithetu in Igembe North by constructing more dams and introducing school feeding programs so as to sustain learners in school.
By Kamanja Maeria