There is gold in the ground of Turkana, but no food on the table

Ejem, John, Lokoler, Masio and Mary. Names that stand for persons and their stories. All of them are or were participants in the nutrition programme that humedica has been running together with the partner organisation amref in Turkana in northwest Kenya for one year. One year during which hundreds of persons were examined for symptoms of mal- or undernutrition and have received treatment. In numerous cases the patients’ lives could only be saved thanks to the distribution of high-energy special food.

All these persons have needs and hopes for their lives. And all of them are grateful to humedica and the partner organisation Sternstunden e. V., as well as to the donors from the faraway country of Germany, for the support they received suddenly as by a miracle, when their misery was worst due to the ongoing drought and when there was nobody else who could help them. In the meantime, a lot of Turkana have recovered, but others are still suffering from the continuing lack of food and water. We would like to present to you some of the persons we got to know during the past few months.

Additionally weakened by illness

Ejem Ejore was two years and two months old, when he was registered for the nutrition programme with a body weight of 7.6 kilograms. At first he was given infant food that had been donated from Germany, and then he received a daily ration of high-calorie biscuits and therapeutic milk.

Six weeks later, in November 2011, the message of success: now the little boy weighs already ten kilos! Not enough, but an obvious recovery. And by now the reason for Ejem to gain weight only so slowly has been found:

One reason is that the family of 15 does not have enough food. And apart from that, his body cannot process the sugar contained in the food correctly, and he therefore needs larger quantities of sugar. Ejem will continue to receive the disaster biscuits NRG 5 (note: see box at the end of the text) – while stocks last.

John suffers from tuberculosis. Last December, the nutrition assistant met the 37-year old man at hospital, when he had a body weight of only 37 kilos. He remembers: “In the beginning I couldn't eat anything but the NRG biscuits. They are easy to eat and I was given them soaked in special milk. I am sure that this saved my life.”

In the meantime, he has gained twelve kilos and the nutrition assistant encourages him to do a little field work once more for a farmer and to eat sufficient vegetables apart from the nutritious corn. He visits the health centre on a regular basis in order to get his rations of additional food.

Treasures that cannot fill one’s stomach

Lokoler Kalale is a tall woman – that is a typical characteristic of the Turkana. She earns a little money with gold panning. There is gold dust in the ground in the region she lives in. On some days she is lucky and sweeps some grains out of her gold pan. But the thought that one can earn a lot of money with this work is an illusion: she gets two or three euros for her work.

She uses this money to buy food for her family of six and water, which has to be bought in expensive 20 litre cans. The time when Lokoler was too weak to search for gold was particularly hard. Lokoler is HIV positive. They had too little food anyway, and due to her empty stomach her body no longer tolerated the ARV drugs (note: antiretroviralrugs for treating an HIV infection).

“I hide my food rations inside my hut, to prevent others from eating them. The biscuits are so popular and valuable!" says Lokoler.

Masio Lotakori is 55 years old. When he heard that drugs and food were distributed at the health centre in Kaikor, he went there immediately. He reports: “I suffered from a terrible cough caused by tuberculosis. The cough has disappeared. But I am still HIV positive. Without the additional rations of NRG, it would have been difficult for me.

I got the biscuits for a period of four months. Now the health station has no NRG left and I am already feeling weaker once more. But that does not prevent me from visiting the people of the village and telling them how the supplies of drugs and food have helped me. I try to motivate them to ask for help, too.”

Strength and solidarity within the families

Mary has a twin brother, John. As the children's mother, Emily, is a single parent without any income, the only one-year old John has been given into the care of his grandmother, who desperately tries to feed him.

His twin sister Mary and their mother moved to friends. In February of this year Mary weighed only four kilos. Now she is a cheerful girl with a body weight of seven kilos. The therapeutic milk F100, which she received for a period of five months, was good for her. Her mother Emily does not know yet what the future will bring for them.

Those were only five examples, five stories of persons who benefited from the humedica relief aid. These measures - above all the distribution of high-calorie additional food like NRG and F100, which are provided in form of dried and pressed biscuits – were possible thanks to the support by Sternstunden e. V. and other friends of humedica.

Ejem, John, Lokoler, Masio and Mary and many others express their heartfelt thanks for that! And we would like to ask you to continue your support for the relief measures at the Horn of Africa.

NRG 5 is a high-calorie food product that is pressed into bars and is produced by the MSI GmbH in Friedrichsdorf, Germany. Its most important features are long-term durability and a high nutritional value combined with a relatively low volume. Rich in carbohydrates (60 percent), fats (17 percent) and proteins (15 percent), and enriched with minerals and vitamins, the bars can be used in situations where people suffer from hunger or where sufficient nutrition cannot be granted. 500 grams of the NRG 5 bars have an energy value of 2,300 kcal.