Habiba’s arms and hands were covered with small, scaly sores. “I’ve been having health problems since my pregnancy began,” said the eighteen year-old mother of two. “I went to the hospital to have this looked at,” she pointed at the spots on her arms, “and the doctor gave me a prescription. The medicine cost three hundred shillings (£2.60) and that was too much for me to afford. I dropped the prescription paper on the ground outside the pharmacy and walked back home without anything.”
Alyce, one of Save the Children’s advisors for the livelihoods program in El Wak, Kenya, explained to me that the sores on Habiba’s arms were due to a lack of protein and vitamins in her diet. Habiba was seven months pregnant with her third child and she wasn’t getting much to eat.
“We don’t eat any food during the day. We usually have black tea in the morning and at noon. Then in the evening we might eat some boiled corn meal. My husband is without employment, so our neighbors share their food with us when they can. Sometimes we receive some relief food”
Habiba’s three year old daughter Fatuma squirmed next to her mother on the floral-patterned mattress they had propped up as a bench. Two year-old Hamsa sat listlessly in his mother’s lap. Habiba’s two children were both going without daily food, and she was worried about the arrival of her third child.
“When my baby is born, if I am not able to produce milk, I will boil water with sugar feed my baby with that.” she told me. “I know it is not the best for an infant, but I will have to give my baby something.”