A little cash changes lives in Qaraa

Kenya, September 21, 2011

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    Halima and her children do not eat regularly. Photo: halima_1200.jpg

Halima Abdi Noor has not seen her husband for the last three months. He has gone with the few animals the family has left towards the Kenyan-Ethiopian border, in search of food and water for them. She is one of many abandoned women in the dusty settlement of Qaraa, whose husbands left because they can’t provide for their families at the same time as looking for better pasture for their remaining livestock. Previously, Halima’s family had 20 camels and 50 sheep and goats, but the drought has left them with only 5 camels and 3 goats.

Halima has four children: 12 year-old Ali, eight year-old Kassim, five year-old Habon and six month-old Fican. The children aren’t in school because the nearest is 30 kilometers away -- too far to walk. Ali, Halima’s eldest, is so passionate about schooling. He told me he wants to be like other children who can read and write. He wants the opportunity to improve his mother’s and siblings’ lives when he grows up.

Halima and her children do not eat regularly. They eat only once a day and even these small meals are shared food with the neighbor’s children. Because they have so little food, the children’s nutrition has been negatively affected and Halima herself isn’t eating enough to produce the breast milk six month-old Fican needs.

After her husband left, and with the help of other women in the village, Halima was able to construct a makeshift house from twigs and wood, where she lives with her four children. They live without bedding and basic commodities like utensils, jerry cans for water or mosquito nets.

There’s no water source for the settlement, so Halima and her family have been getting water from Mercy Corps’ emergency supplies. Very soon she’ll receive an unconditional cash grant of 3,000 Kenyan shillings ($31) from Mercy Corps too which will allow her to purchase food locally for her children, buy medicine, pay debt and buy other basic necessities.

Halima told me that Mercy Corps was the first to offer this kind of assistance to her family and she was overwhelmed with joy and appreciation. She said she can be a very hardworking and innovative woman and knows how to weave, so eventually she’ll be able to improve the lives of her children for the better herself. She said, “With this money, I will be able to provide enough food for my children and also buy other basic things that I do not have at the moment.”