Bringing food and hope to a parched land 

Life in Turkana is harsh, but not without hope.

Gerry Naughton
Gerry Naughton
Communications officer, Liberia

Back to all stories | Posted on 16 Mar 2018 in Blog Kenya Close Up

Turkana is like a different planet. A world of dry riverbeds and tall watchful people who cast almost no shadow in the vertical sunshine.   
Spiky plants and trees dot a landscape of sand, dust and stones. Clutches of manyattas (houses) nestle in groups and wild camels wander in packs. A termite mound points its long chimney up at the sky. 
Occasionally, I spot a figure standing alone – a goat-herder, with his stick across his shoulders, watching his herd.  
There are always hills in the far distance. You can drive two or three hours across the arid landscape without seeming to get any closer. 
I notice a green haze on the thirsty earth, where it must have rained recently and seedlings are already beginning to sprout. 
I am amazed that our driver, Joseph, can find his way to the ECDs (Early Childhood Development centres) – where Mary’s Meals provides children with nutritious daily meals – despite driving in a land without landmarks. But gradually I pick out the tracks he is following where previous cars have gone.

We cross wide dry riverbeds, where the sand is soft and deep. Joseph has to stop the car on the bank, engage four-wheel drive and then plough through. He tells me of a previous journey where the car got stuck and everything had to be unloaded, while Joseph dug the soft sand away from the tyres. I can't help thinking how similar and how different it is to being stuck in snow at home. 
When the rains fall, there are flash floods. The land is so dry that the sudden torrent just runs on top. Livestock and even people can be washed away. 
How can I express the lack of shade and shimmering haze in words? 
The word that keeps coming to my mind is “inhospitable” but it isn't inhospitable to the tall, slim, elegant people of Turkana – so different from my pink, stocky appearance. I ask them what it is like to stay in such a place, and they look at me like they don’t understand the question. Things are getting better, most of them say. But life there is precarious. The Turkana people still depend on two short annual rainy periods, and these have now become unpredictable. It means less water, which in turn means fewer crops, fewer animals and less food. 
People are looking forward in hope – and Mary’s Meals is a key part of that. So life continues for the children – studying, playing, helping out at home, and enjoying their Mary’s Meals every school day.