Young Kenyans call for urgent action on hunger crisis

27 October 2022

Following a youth dialogue convened by Plan International Kenya, young people have provided recommendations for stakeholders to respond to the hunger crisis in the region.


Youth advocates meet to dicuss the hunger crisis.

Plan International Kenya has hosted a virtual dialogue to gather the perspectives of young Kenyans on the impact of the hunger crisis on children and young women in the arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) of the country.

The 18 participants aged between 11 and 24 years were part of Plan International’s Girls Takeover initiative that took place between 6 and 14 October as part of the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl, held annually on October 11. The initiative raises awareness on the need to remove barriers that stand in the way of girls’ and young women’s leadership opportunities, decision-making and visibility. It gives girls and young women the opportunity to step into the shoes of leaders and decision-makers from various sectors in a mass takeover.

During the hunger crisis dialogue, all participants expressed fear over the devastating long-term effects of the drought on vulnerable children, particularly girls, and the once-promising future of Kenya.

Include young people in decision-making

They lamented the exclusion of young people in decision-making, which they attributed to the country’s inability to effectively address the protection risks for girls in the current hunger crisis. The participants emphasised the need for girls and young women to be included in platforms such as steering and technical committees and working groups where issues affecting them are discussed.

The group urged donors and humanitarian actors to:

  • Invest in consultations with young people to inform the design of interventions
  • Build their capacity to support community resilience and prevent and respond to protection risks
  • Expand advocacy platforms to amplify young people’s voices including young male champions for gender-equality
  • Showcase how the hunger crisis is affecting the lives of children and women in the hardest-hit ASAL region.

The severe drought has overwhelmed the region for 4 consecutive rainy seasons, testing Kenya’s ability to adapt to climate change and support vulnerable communities.

There are indications that humanitarian actors may be losing the battle to address the impacts of the hunger crisis, with over 4 million people struggling to access clean water and food.

The same children affected by this hunger crisis are the future of Kenya.

The coverage of humanitarian assistance, particularly in the Marsabit, Turkana, Garissa, and Wajir counties, is poor – many people in far-flung areas are left out. A scoping exercise recently carried out by Plan International in northern Kenya’s Marsabit county revealed that many organisations have either run out of funding or are operating on a shoe-string budget, severely affecting the effectiveness of interventions.

The hunger crisis, which is also affecting Kenya’s neighbouring countries Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, has been a rude awakening for the region. A long wait for more funds has not yielded satisfactory results despite evidence of deaths related to hunger in all 4 countries.

Targeted investment required

Girls and women waiting to collect water in Kenya
Women and girls patiently waiting to collect water.

Ms. Faridah Akinyi, a 20-year-old young advocate who took over the position of the Deputy Head of the EU delegation, Her Excellency Katrin Hagemann, during the Girls Takeover said the solution to the hunger crisis lies in Kenya prioritising investments.

“Kenya should put more money and capacity in strengthening the resilience of communities to the recurring droughts. The issue is poor rain which is triggering a water crisis in a region where the livelihoods of millions of people are rain-fed crops and livestock,” said Ms. Akinyi.

“It is obvious we should be investing in harnessing groundwater, cost-effective water-harvesting facilities and land-reclamation programmes as well as providing irrigation systems to support smallholder farmers to grow food and keep their livestock alive irrespective of the adverse weather conditions.”

The scoping exercise also shows that the water crisis in the ASAL has taken a heavy toll on girls and women with many having to walk 20 kilometres to fetch water. The drought has not spared many of the donkeys and camels that used to help fetch water. Some have either died while many others are too weak to work, compounding the already difficult situation.

It would be a big loss for our country if we fail to act adequately now to address the impact of the hunger crisis on children and women.

It is even harder in Laisamis sub-county, Watiti in Moyale sub-county, Loiyangalani town and some villages in Golbo and Uran ward, where water is being sold to residents. Most vulnerable families, including child-headed households who cannot afford to buy the water, are having to find ways to raise the money, even if it means women and girls putting their health and lives at risk to get the water.

Lack of water is also affecting school operations and is forcing hungry children to drop out of school. The scoping study further found that in some schools, feeding programmes have been suspended due to inadequate funding. Families that depended on proceeds from their farm produce and sales of their livestock to pay school fees for their children are now failing to raise the money.

A combination of these factors is causing an education disaster that may compromise the achievement of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

At the dialogue, Ms. Catherine Okoth, 20, who also participated in the Girls Takeover, said, “The same children affected by this hunger crisis are the future of Kenya. If they are dropping out of school to fend for themselves, it means we are reversing the gains we have made over the years. We cannot transform Kenya into an industrialising middle-income country by 2030 if we fail to ensure education and training for all children.”

Effect of hunger on girls

A pile of bones from dead livestock in rural Kenyan village
A pile of bones from dead livestock in rural Kenyan village.

Plan International Kenya Country Director, Ms. Atieno Onyonyi, further highlighted the effects of dropping out of school on girls’ lives. “The consequences of girls failing to complete secondary education and acquiring foundational skills are grave as they perpetuate poverty and affect their well-being,” she said.

“In future, their ability to make decisions in their families, communities and at national and global level will be negatively affected. It would be a big loss for our country if we fail to act adequately now to address the impact of the hunger crisis on children and women.”

In this hunger crisis, she added, essential services for the prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation, abuse and child labour must be gender sensitive, youth and child friendly and easily accessible.

Ms. Onyonyi also said Plan International Kenya is mobilising resources to accelerate the expansion of its gender-responsive interventions in Marsabit county.

She said, “Partnerships are more critical now than ever before for us to be able to pool resources and act fast to expand and sustain activities such as school meals, provide water, particularly in schools where girls are facing menstrual hygiene challenges causing them to skip classes, support women farmers to create other sources of livelihood and heighten campaigns against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage and unwanted pregnancies.”

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children. We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge. We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 85 years, and are now active in more than 75 countries.

Media Contacts for further information and interview arrangements in Kenya:

  • Lillian Omariba, Influencing and Communications Manager –
  • Evelyn Wambui, Regional Communications and Media Specialist –
  • Tsitsi Matope, Global Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Emergencies, Youth empowerment, Food crisis, girls’ leadership