Food relief at the Isiolo School for the Deaf

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 16:44

What is she trying to tell me?

I ask Mr Ismail Galma, a special needs teacher at the Isiolo School for the Deaf.

Six-year-old Ililhan is repeatedly gesturing towards her mouth and then points towards the ActionAid delivery truck that has just pulled through the school gates. "She is saying that she’s hungry. She is asking if that will be dinner."  The teacher signs back to Ililhan patiently. "Yes, it is dinner. We will soon be eating again."

We’re delivering 143 tonnes of maize, beans and vegetable oil to the Isiolo School for the Deaf, home to around 100 students between the ages of 6 and 17.

Head Teacher, Ali Dima Duba says,

We ran out of food yesterday and had nothing to serve for dinner. Luckily ActionAid came today and saved us.

"It was an emergency situation because the children hadn’t eaten since morning and we were about to close the school. Thank god you came into the picture."

Because of their disability, communities often reject deaf children. Most of the students here were abandoned by their parents or relatives.  Some are orphans, found on the streets.

"We become their parents." Ismail explains, as he gives a big hug to Ilihan and her 6 year-old cousin Katra, who were brought to the school by their grandmother three months ago.

The drought is bringing about a crisis to our school because most of the children here are from pastoral areas where the drought has hit the hardest.

"Their parents or guardians can no longer afford to send them to school because all their animals have died and they no longer have a livelihood. We cannot chase away these children because they have nowhere else to go," says Ismail.

Enrolment in the school is increasing, as more children become an added burden to their families because of the drought.  

Mumina Huka, a special needs teacher at the school says: "Right now we have children as young as 4 years old. These children are supposed to be with their parents at this age so it is a big trauma for many of them to be here when they arrive here. But it becomes an even bigger trauma when they go back home because they cannot communicate with their families,  and households often don’t have enough to eat. Many children come back from holiday much skinnier and some are unrecognizable."

This food relief operation is part of ActionAid’s response to the drought, and is funded by donations from April’s fund-raising drive.  Our recent appeal has allowed us to increase the number of people we normally give food to in Isiolo from 56,000 to 83,880.