Challenges facing Pokot women and Children

Drought and Famine

No region in Kenya faces the devastation of drought and famine as Pokot and Turkana. Averagely, during dry seasons, temperatures in Pokot and Turkana areas have risen to a high of 40 degrees Celsius. During such times, the people and animals suffer a lot. As a result, the Pokots who live in affected regions are forced to move to other regions forcing children to drop out of school. Many children and animals die as a result of food shortage. This year, drought and famine has already claimed the lives of many according to the Nation newspaper of 03/2/2014. During such periods, the government is often forced to postpone the opening of schools in Pokot to attend to the crisis.Currently over 200,000 Pokots are facing starvation and hunger!this is an alarming figure. Some Pastoral communities in pokot have as a result migrated to the neighboring Uganda. Many schools in many Pokot regions currently do not receive sufficient food forcing children to stay at home as they try to find food elsewhere.Areas mostly affected by the drought and famine are Takaywa, Nauyapong, Alale, Nyangaita, Ombollion,Kodich and Kamanau. People in Pokot and neighboring Turkana are also in many instances forced to eat toxic wild fruits which have to boiled for hours so as to make them safely edible. The Pokot region needs emergency food relief food now to try and alleviate a situation of disaster. Wildfire Ministries Kenya (WMK) works with stake holders to try and bring help to the Pokots. We are a committed organization focused to ministering to the Pokots in all areas of their needs. We always seek partners who share our broader vision. Food relief donated to the Pokots will be safely handled by WMK to ensure that a larger group of the Pokots benefit. Please, partner with us to help alleviate hunger in Pokot. Contact the programmes manager for more information on how we can work together to help the Pokot community.     

Education
Due to high illiteracy levels and attachment to the Pokot culture, the idea of global child rights, universal free primary education and issues to do with children cannot be explained to their satisfaction. To them, education is the art of teaching a child the traditional norms that must be observed at all stages of growth. Many children in Pokot are forced to drop out of school by their parents for many reasons. Poverty, moranism and culture have played a big role in the rising cases of school dropouts with most victims being young primary school girls. The girls are the most affected as parents tend to marry off their daughters in the tender ages so as to acquire more wealth. The Pokot region has had a high number of reports of girls running away from home or refusing to return home from school despite the existence of Kenyan laws against child marriage. For along time now, the FGM culture has worked against women in Pokot. In Pokot, girls are educated up until the age of 10 years as education up to this age is free. However, even completion of primary school is not guaranteed since some young girls are married off at the age 9 or 10.Local officials and statistics shows that 80% of Pokot girls do not join school or drop out prematurely. After the age of 10, families would rather spend what little they have to educate the boys in the community. Many boys also drop out of school to herd their family’s livestock. Livestock are a sign of wealth, and therefore the family invests a lot of time and resources to protect and preserve them. The boy child is introduced to grazing cattle at the age of five. Many children therefore fail to attend school in order to tend to their families livestock. Marginalization and neglect by the government of Kenya has also contributed to the high illiteracy rate in Pokot. Compared to other regions, few schools exist in Pokot. In the regions where WMK is working e.g. in Nyangaita, there is only one school, which is underdeveloped and lacks teachers. Many children therefore travel a long distance to attend school, and the lucky few have to content with the few available teachers. Many teachers in the Pokot region prefer to teach in the urban schools due to the accessibility of local services as opposed to the rural and interior schools where facilities and services are lacking. All these factors have contributed to the high school drop outs and illiteracy rates in Pokot.

Female genital Mutilation ( FGM)
It is the Pokot tradition to circumcise a girl child before sending her to be married. Young girls in Pokot assume the role of a woman as soon as they are circumcised and married off at a tender age of even 10 years. The girls are always psychologically prepared for marriage at the ages of 7-12 when she will go through what every woman is said to cherish, FGM leading to early marriage to a suitor only known to her father. Over 70% of Pokot girls between the ages of 8 and 21 have been subjected to FGM, forcing them to drop out of school and get married at a very tender age. In the Kenya, prevalence rates for FGM and Child marriage are approximately 27% and 26% respectively whereas in Pokot it is above 80%.for both. FGM has many complications: chronic infections, severe pain during urination, delivery, menstruation and sexual intercourse, infertility and psychological trauma. Due to the extreme form of FGM practiced in Pokot, many women spend days in the bush trying to deliver a baby. This usually either results in still birth or a fistula, which is a tear between the walls of the vaginal canal. Fistula can only be repaired surgically and without this surgery, women have no control over bladder and bowel movement, as a result these women are shunned from society and labeled as unclean.

Hygiene and Sanitation
Many school going girls do not attend school during their monthly menstruation cycle. Many cannot afford sanitary towels and therefore resort to using bird’s feathers to wipe themselves. Research points to a larger percentage of girls and women, mostly in the remote areas lacking the proper sanitary towels. School attendance is therefore very low during certain period of the month as girls prefer to stay at home, using odd means and methods to clean themselves up. The lack of water also worsens the situation. During their periods, the girls are forced to travel a long distance to collect water and bring back home. It is also not strange to see young girls and women bathing in the rivers and near constructed boreholes. Majority of Pokot women and children also don’t bath regularly due to lack of water. Those leaving near rivers are lucky because they can afford to bath at least three times in one week. Frequent and unending drought has forced many Pokot families to resort to other means of ‘body washing’ such as the use of saliva or traditional body perfume. To avoid sex, married women prefer to stay unclean by skipping bathing. In the more interior regions, it is even common for families to stay up to two weeks without bathing.

Cattle Rustling and tribal wars.
For many years, the Pokots have been fighting with the neighboring tribes, the Turkanas, Marakwet and the Karamojong of Uganda over livestock. During such raids, many people die and families are displaced causing the survivors to flee from the area. The people normally affected are children since many of them are not able to defend themselves or run away from the enemies. The families are normally forced to move to another area causing the children to drop out of school. At a tender age, the boy child is also introduced to handling the gun because he is the community’s protector and the livestock as well. In future, he has to protect the family against their frequent enemies who have made rustling a trade. These informal teachings make him a ‘moran’, fearless and ready to die while defending what belongs to his community. During such raids, women and young girls captured by the enemies are often raped and left for dead in the bush.

Family and Community obligations
In the Pokot culture, a woman has no voice especially in the public forum and no authority within her homestead. Her main role is do the house chores, take care of the children and in many cases they are the sole bread winners, and therefore has to make sure food is available on the table. It is very common to find women and young girls walking a long distance to the market to sell milk and other commodities. While men are busy drinking and spending time in the market joints, women spend time finding ways on how they will feed the family. Women also have the responsibility of constructing new houses for their families and making sure they are in the right condition always by properly maintaining them.

Alcohol dependency
Another problem in Pokot is the issue of alcohol. Alcohol dependency has become a serious problem for many Pokots including women. Many women now spend time drinking especially during the market days. As a result, many parents abandon their children and neglect their duties and responsibilities especially during market days. Alcohol dependency has also contributed to the increase promiscuity among the Pokot women. This has also led to high increase in HIV/AIDS rate.

Lack of Water and irrigation facilities Many Pokot’s also travel along distance to find water for their cattle and for home use. Many travel an average of five kilometer (5km) to find water. At Nyangaita, a population of more than 10000 people share one borehole built by the famous televangelist TD Jakes from the USA. Very early in the morning, it is common to see children and young girls queuing with their livestock’s and Jeri cans. Many women also travel along distance to get at least 20 liters of water for their families. The people who suffer most are women and children because they bear the sole responsibility of making sure water is available for their cattle and for home use. Because the vast area of Pokot region is dry, cash crop farming is not commonly practiced. Many people are forced to travel a long distance to buy vegetables which are also very expensive. Because of poverty, the majority of people can’t afford to irrigate their lands. They therefore have to patiently endure the long dry season as they wait for the unpredictable rains to pour. Due to drought and famine, children die due to malnutrition. Many families move from one region to the other to look for pastures for their livestock.

Diseases
The harsh environment of the area, the cultural practice regarding livestock’s and poor agriculture makes it impossible to have reliable sources of food; its scarcity is a common occurrence. Diseases continue being on the increase as the virus of malaria, typhus, HIV keeps on becoming resistant. In fact infant mortality is still very high in areas where WMK is concentrating its efforts e.g. kamanau, Nyangaita, lomut and kaklesion, but it has reduced in other areas thanks to mother and child clinics. Many women still give birth in their homes with the help of traditional birth attendants, majority of whom are untrained and not equipped with the necessary knowledge. Malaria kills many school going children in Pokot especially in the interior regions because of lack of health facilities and ignorance by the community. Many families prefer to use traditional remedies which often don’t work leading to high risk cases which mostly results in deaths. HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has continued to increase in Pokot. Due to ignorance, many pokots prefer to use traditional medicine, and therefore ignore going for medical checkups. As a result, many die even before they have been tested, and those who have been tested ignore the reality and therefore don’t follow the doctor’s advice.

Lack of Health facilities.
Very few health facilities exist in Pokot due to the neglect by the government. Many people are forced to walk up to 20 KM to visit the hospital. In some regions, a population of more than 20000 people shares one small dispensary. Most of the hospitals and health centers are also understaffed and lack medical supplies. Women prefer to give birth in the bush under the care of inexperienced traditional midwives. Many of these women and infant children die in the hands of the midwives because they lack the necessary skills to avert or prevent the crisis. There are no good roads in Pokot and especially in areas where WMK is concentrating its efforts e.g. Nyangaita, Kamanau, Kaklesion etc The rocks, hills and valleys even make it harder for the pregnant Pokot woman to survive the journey or safely give birth in case she is driven in a car or ambulance.

 

 

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Contact Us

WMK’s field office is based in Lomut,west Pokot.
To contact us ,write to
    The director joram@wildfireminitrieskenya.org
    The programmes manager info@wildfireministrieskenya.org
Or Call our Kenyan Numbers +254723712883 &
+254720453556