A recipe for extreme hunger: How a Kenyan woman feeds her family of ten when she has 40 shillings (50 cents)

by IRIN News

Wilbroda Wandera.  Photo: Jane Some/IRIN

(Kiberia, Kenya. May 14, 2010) Widowed 16 years ago, Wilbroda Aoko Wandera, 48, has had to become creative with the little she has, at times spending just 40 shillings (US$0.50) to feed her family of 10. She has no steady job and sells spinach, plaits hair and washes clothes for a fee. She spoke to IRIN on 13 May:

“My husband had been sick for a long time, but his relatives chased me away with my children and demolished our house upcountry when he died, saying I had something to do with his death. Since then life has been one long struggle.

“My mother sent me bus fare when she learnt I had been chased away and I returned to Nairobi where we had been living before my husband died.

“I have tried many things to feed my family and to put the children into school; right now two boys are in secondary school.

“I have sold [donuts] and worked as a cleaner at the Catholic Church nearby. One time I got lucky when the local chief allowed me to build a kiosk near the road; I used the front part as a salon where I plaited people’s hair and lived in the back with my children. However, this was demolished in 2007 to pave way for the Kibera slum upgrading programme. Now I live near the river, where I have built a mud structure.

“We mostly live on one meal a day. This is hard, especially on the children. I have learnt to make meals for the whole family even when I have only 40 shillings [$0.50]. With this, I buy maize flour for 20 shillings, sugar for five, paraffin for 10, a lemon for two and water for three. This will make a [pot] of porridge and everybody can get a cup. That takes us to the next day.

“When I have 50 shillings, I buy sukuma wiki [kales] for 10 shillings, maize flour for 30, cooking oil for five and paraffin for five. With this, I cook ugali and the sukuma wiki and everyone will at least have a hot meal.

“On a good day, when I make at least 100 shillings, the diet is better; I buy maize flour for 45, omena [sardines] for 20, tomatoes for 10, paraffin for 10 and cooking oil for 10. This is enough for two meals for the whole family. But the days I make 100 are rare. Besides, when I make more than 100, I put away some money for school fees and rent.

“I feel blessed that I have the support of other widows. We formed a self-help group in 2007. We are there for each other, we skip meals together, we help each other in merry-go-round donations of 20 shillings a week and struggle to bring up our children. Life in Kibera is hard but it is 10 times harder for a widow with children.”

World Hunger Education Service. For more information about world hunger, see https://www.worldhunger.org This article was first published by IRIN News and can be viewed at http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=89132

  • World Hunger Education
    Service
    P.O. Box 29015
    Washington, D.C. 20017
  • For the past 40 years, since its founding in 1976, the mission of World Hunger Education Service is to undertake programs, including Hunger Notes, that
    • Educate the general public and target groups about the extent and causes of hunger and malnutrition in the United States and the world
    • Advance comprehension which integrates ethical, religious, social, economic, political, and scientific perspectives on the world food problem
    • Facilitate communication and networking among those who are working for solutions
    • Promote individual and collective commitments to sustainable hunger solutions.

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