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In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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LGBTQ+ International: UK v. Scotland On Gender, Uganda Ends “Vagabond” Laws — And Other News

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on a topic you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

This week featuring:

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LGBTQ+ International: Opposing "Don’t Say Gay," Amsterdam Pride — And Other Top News

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on a topic you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring, this week:

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Unzipped! The African Women Breaking Taboos Of Sexuality

In countries and communities where sexuality is often kept under wraps, more and more women are taking up their microphones, pens and keyboards to talk about intimate issues without filters.

When the subject of African women's sexuality gets media coverage it's almost always a bad thing, says Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, a Ghanaian writer based in London: "through the spectrum of disease, HIV or repeated pregnancies."

While universal access to sexual and reproductive health services remains a central issue in West Africa, Sekyiamah wants to share other narratives. To do this, she co-founded the blog: Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.

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Geopolitics
Marion Douet

Can Kenya Cash In On The Global Avocado Craze?

More and more Kenyan farmers are growing avocados, the native Mexican fruit that are both profitable and relatively easy to produce. But global competition is fierce.

MURANG'A — Mwaura Morisson jokes that when he walks out in the morning and looks at the trees — some of which already carry tiny embryos of fruit — what he really sees is money. "It's not in my pocket yet," the elderly man says, smiling. "But I'm already counting how much I will make."

The farmer, his hands in the pockets of a worn out raincoat, is showing off his shamba, his plot of land, and talking about his avocado trees, which grow in a row of terraces in Murang'a county, a two-hour drive from Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The October rains have barely begun but boots are already sinking in the viscous, red soil of this fertile region, wedged between the Aberdare mountain range and Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano with snow-capped peaks.

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Geopolitics
Berit Uhlmann

Another Consequence Of Kenya's Drought: Obesity

With drought comes malnutrition and a run to the slums, where fatty foods, sugar, and obesity await.

TURKANA COUNTY — Sand and scree wherever you look. Bushes that cling with difficulty to red, dusty earth that has long seen no water.

Turkana County, in northwest Kenya, is home to 800,000 people. About 80% of them are livestock farmers, experienced like no other in breeding animals. People here say that the Turkana can recognize their goats by the hoof prints. The milk their animals produce is inimitably sweet, a delicacy praised far beyond the region.

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Sources
Marion Douet

Soft Power: A Mentor Program To Fight Terrorism In Kenya

In the Majengo district of the southern port city, a mentoring program is trying to stop al-Shabaab​ from recruiting young people.

MOMBASA — The kamikaze who blew himself up on January 15 in the Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi lived in Majengo. Several members of al-Shabaab, the Islamic terror group who carried out the attack that killed 21, also had close links to this low-income neighborhood in the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa. Located on the island that is the heart of Mombasa, the neighborhood is made up of a few lively streets, lined with tall white buildings that feature arcades that are typical of the architecture of the great port city.

The district is known as a center of Islamic radicalization. Two imams, About Rogo and Abubaker Shariff — otherwise known as "Makaburi" ("tomb" in Swahili) — urged young people to join the al-Shabaab fight in the early part of this decade. At that time, the elegant white and green minaret of the Masjid Musa mosque, where they operated, displayed black flags celebrating the glory of the Somali Islamist militia. Since then, the two preachers have been killed, and the black flags removed. But with each new terrorist attack in Kenya, the name Majengo reappears.

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food / travel

Watch: OneShot — Rare Black Leopard Photo Caught In Darkness

"I (had) never seen a high-quality image of a wild black leopard come out of Africa," British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas wrote recently. So he sprung to attention when word arrived about a sighting at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

Using a series of Camtraptions motion-triggered camera traps, Burrard-Lucas managed to snap this powerful shot of the ever-elusive big cat.

With OneShot, this rare photograph emerges from the darkness of the night.

Black Leopard (©Will Burrard-Lucas) | OneShot

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Economy
Dominic Kirui

Informal Banking Helps Kenyan Women Find Financial Autonomy

These informal banks in Kenya help women acquire financial stability, to help them take control of their income.

BUBISA —​ Orge Konchora always wanted her children to get an education, but her husband's modest salary as a driver wouldn't cover school fees —and she knew she had to help out. Although the family also had some livestock, the animals were owned entirely by her husband and most died during a drought. This meant the couple had to make an extra effort to pay for the schools and meet their household expenses.

This was not easy for the 53-year-old mother of two because in the Gabra community from which she hails — as in many of the communities that inhabit Kenya"s dry north — a woman is not allowed to own any property, be it land or livestock.

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Sources
Robert Kibet

Pineapple Drying, Solar Economic Development In Kenya

In rural Kenya, the Waata people were displaced by the creation of a national park. But a sustainable development program is also a way to making a living.

CHAMARI Under the scorching sun in Marafa, a small village nestled in a canyon-like depression in Kilifi County in southeast Kenya, women are carefully harvesting pineapples from their open gardens. Using kangas rectangular pieces of cloth wrapped around their waists they pick the ripe fruits and pack them into sacks, ready for transportation to the solar dryer.

Until six decades ago, the Waata hunter-gatherer community lived in the forest, moving their children and their settlements to wherever the men made a hunting kill. But, in the 1940s, the introduction of British colonial wildlife conservation laws and the creation of national parks in Kenya saw the Waata people evicted from the forest to make way for the Tsavo East National Park. The community found refuge on the periphery of the new park, where they were forced to abandon their lives as hunter-gatherers and start farming.

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Migrant Lives
Marion Douet

In Kenya, A Refugee Camp With 2,100 Small Businesses

From individual artisans to prosperous wholesalers, this isolated place has developed a vibrant economy despite numerous obstacles.

KAKUMA — When she was a millinery student at the University of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Esperance Tabisha didn't think for a second that she would be practicing her trade in a refugee camp. Eight years later, the young Congolese woman works at Kakuma, a refugee camp near where the border of Kenya meets Uganda and South Sudan.

Fleeing the conflict that ravaged her region of North Kivu, she arrived alone at the refugee camp in 2010. A "Congolese mom" quickly took her under her wing.

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