Missionaries describe impact of climate change in Turkana

  • Jo Siedlecka

Scholastica and Lenny with parish priest Fr Mark Leenane at St Vincent de Paul's, Osterley

Scholastica and Lenny with parish priest Fr Mark Leenane at St Vincent de Paul's, Osterley

Two lay missionaries working in the most remote part of Kenya visited a west London parish recently. Nurse Scholastica Wamalwa and teacher Lenny Gilo, from the Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle, who run the St Peter's Mother and Child Centre in Nariokotomo, Turkana, Kenya, stayed in Vincent de Paul parish in Osterley which supports their project.

The Community runs 29 nurseries in Turkana, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, caring for more than 3,000 children. In each nursery, the children are fed six days a week all year round and also have chance to attend primary school. Up to 100 children attend St Peter's Mother and Child Centre. They arrive at 8 in the morning for a vitamin enriched porridge. Lunch is usually maize or rice and beans - with vegetables and fruit from the garden - depending what's in season. They grow watermelon, spinach, okra tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables in the garden.

For months now, Turkana has been experiencing a severe drought, so the nomadic tribes have not been able to find much pasture for their animals. The school meals are often the only food the children receive. Lenny said: "The children are very generous. Sometimes you see a child take their cup of milk and pass to a younger sibling waiting there. If I notice I always make sure the little ones get a helping too."

Besides the drought, in the past year the Turkana region has suffered other extreme weather which has brought with it new health problems. Scholastica said: "We're used to hot weather - around 35 - 40C, but lately we've had spells of cold, rainy weather that people are just not used to. While its been good for growing vegetables, the weather has also brought malaria-carrying mosquitos, and there have been outbreaks of cholera."

The changeable weather makes it very difficult to plan ahead. When it rains, seasonal rivers appear flooding access roads and making it difficult to move.

The MCSPA has been treating a malaria epidemic at five centres, seeing 50 to 120 patients a day. "Its a terrible illness. You have headache, joint pains, vomiting and tiredness. Malaria can prove fatal" Scholastica said.

They are trying to combat malaria by introducing mosquito nets and encouraging people to clean their compounds of any stagnant water.

The Kenyan government provides vaccinations for polio, measles, TB, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. Scholastica and Lenny hope they will soon be providing vaccinations for cholera and typhoid also.

Lenny said: "In many ways the cold weather was easier to cope with. Now people need warm bedding, and safe toilet facilities. "

Scholastica has been working in Turkana for 25 years. Lenny has been there for 20 years now. It's work they both love.

The nurseries are funded by New Ways - a charity run completely by volunteers. It costs an average of just £60 -£80 per annum to feed and educate a child in the nutritional nurseries. Can you please help. Gift Aid adds even more to ensure your donation changes lives.

To donate online and support the Parish Nursery Project in Turkana, see: www.justgiving.com/campaign/stvincentnursery


Watch this video for an overview of the mission: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENpZM-KEqEM

Read Lenny Gilo's story here: www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36744

Tags: Turkana, Kenya, Lenny Jilo, Nariokotomo, Missionary Community of St Paul the Apostle, MCSPA, Scholastica Wamaluwa

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