When schools closed in February this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many children in Kibera, Gatwekera area who depended on school feeding programmes to get at least a meal a day, were left in a quagmire.
With the extended holiday, some were not assured of food at lunchtime as their parents were at work while others simply had no food to offer them.
A programme by Maranatha Vision Youth project is filling this gap by ensuring children get a decent meal during this period.
Clyde Eric Otieno, chairperson of the group said: “Life is a train; one day you are here, tomorrow you are there. You must therefore make sure you improve the place you came from. That is why we are feeding the children to ensure that they do not suffer during this difficult period.
They provide lunch to children and ensure that when their parents are at work, they are well fed.
Phyllis Ogutu, a mother of four, said the closure of schools was difficult for many parents, who were assured that their children would get a balanced meal in school.
“I now don’t have to worry about my children when I am not around because I know a healthy and delicious food is waiting for them at the feeding project,” she said. The project provides ugali and kales, rice and beans meals to the children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) nearly half of all deaths in children under five are caused by undernutrition. At the same time, recent estimates indicate that in addition to the 690 million undernourished people in 2019, at least another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020, a situation that has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent study by the World Food Programme should that as of July 2020, an estimated 370 million children were missing school meals, a problem Otieno and his colleagues want to address through the feeding programme.
Otieno is now asking the government to come in and help the youth to overcome social and economic problems, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group was registered in 2016 and has been engaging in various activities including provision of sanitary services to the community. They have built toilets and bathrooms and charge between Sh5-10 to those who need to use them. They also engage in cleaning up River Ngong and run Ayueche Football Club, a platform for youth to showcase their talent. In addition, they also run a micro-saving group that helps young people keep aside some money for the future.
These activities fund the feed-a-child programme that has so far benefitted more than 500,000 children. The feeding programme takes place twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday and more than 500 children are fed in a day.
“The feeding programme attracts families from all over the constituency. Funds from donors and well-wishers also helps us keep the programme running,” said Otieno.
He said the group has about 35 members who volunteer in the feeding programme.
“We started with building washrooms. The toilet idea was to reduce the problem of human waste, which is rampant in Gatwekera area,” said Dissie Moses, a member of the group.
Area residents praised the group, saying the programme has been timely to many parents who can’t afford most basic needs. Tabitha Moraa, a mother of two, said she is happy that her children can get at least one meal a day.
Despite the success of the problem it has been facing a few hurdles, key among them lack of resources.
“The second challenge we have been facing is space. Currently the programme takes place in a church ground and this makes it difficult to carry out church activities. In addition, it’s impossible to control the influx of beneficiaries,” said Otieno.