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Kenya battles recurring drought

Countries of East Africa and Horn of Africa plagued by successive years of low rainfall.

Mwingi's rocky hills and scrubby forest should be interspersed with fields of maize and beans, instead the people are watching the sky and waiting for the rain. Last week precipitation began to fall and Mafuo David’s 16-year-old son set about ploughing the fields by hand, carefully placing precious seeds in little pits dug in the dirt.

She said she was happy that it had begun to rain but knew that a little rain would not change everything.

“Every year it rains a little and we plant but it doesn’t grow. If it rains for three months then we may have a good harvest,” she said. In the meantime her family scrapes by on monthly handouts of maize, beans and cooking oil.

In a nearby village, Mutindi Maithya, 36, also hopes the rains will last. She supplements the food handouts for herself and her six children with money earned by washing clothes for neighbors or cutting hedges.

But with the first drops of rain ushering in the planting season there will be no time to work for cash so times will be harder than ever in the coming months. Already it is rare for her family to have more than two meals a day, the first of which is a simple cup of black tea with

The rains are unlikely to bring much relief. In some parts of northern Kenya there are already reports of flooding that will make getting food to hungry people more difficult as dirt roads turn into seas of mud.

It also raises fears of malaria, cholera and other water-borne diseases. Cattle weakened by hunger and thirst can quickly succumb to the cold. In farming areas flood waters wash away fertile topsoil and valuable seeds.

“Rain changes the water situation but not the food situation,” Menezes said.