Out of Kenya's 47 counties, 23 are facing disastrous drought. Kilifi is one of the most affected. Hundreds of thousands of people in the county are in need of food and water, at least half of whom are children.
The drought crippling Kenya is particularly dangerous for children. Besides the immediate threat of malnutrition and dehydration, their future is uncertain because so many are forced to drop out of school.
Girls are hit particularly hard.
Many girls have to fetch water in the afternoon before going back to school. The increasingly long walks in the midday heat sap their energy. To help alleviate these hardships, Plan International is conducting food distributions and providing life-saving humanitarian assistance that will keep families fed and children – including girls – in school.
“Girls are expected to remain alert during the afternoon classes,” said Nisha, a Plan International youth activist from Kilifi. “They are also expected to complete their assignments on time.”
Older men try to lure girls with gifts as they fetch water. The local boda boda riders (motor cycle taxi drivers) are notorious for this. This leads to an increase in the rate of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the county.
“It is common to be approached by older men seeking sexual favors in exchange for money,” said Nisha. “Besides this drought, families in Kilifi will give boys opportunities to advance their education since parents believe that they will assist them in future. Girls are looked at as people who will get married and forget their families.”
When a girl drops out of school it will impact her entire life, as she may not ever have the opportunity to return to school again.
The increase in early marriages is just one consequence of the drought on girls. Child labor is also on the rise as children are forced to look for work to help their families.
“I believe it is important to continue educating girls to understand their rights and possibilities,” said Nisha. “This way, more girls will be able to say no to sexual advances and concentrate on their studies.”