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One journalist's take on a neglected African tragedy

NBC News producer Baruch Ben-Chorin just returned from Turkana, a remote region in northwestern Kenya badly hit by the drought that is afflicting parts of East Africa.  While the international community has focused largely on suffering in Somalia, relief workers say close to 40 percent of Turkana's population is suffering from hunger and malnutrition. 

While concentrating on his main task of producing, Ben-Chorin took pictures for himself and his friends and family.

Editor's note: These images were altered by a software application that uses filters to mimic the effects of shooting with an antique plastic film camera, even though they were taken with a modern digital phone camera.

Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

A hut in the village of Kalapata, Turkana region, Kenya. Most of the people in Turkana live in small villages like Kalapata, depending on their herds for their livelihood. But the drought has killed most of their animals, and left them with nothing. Their traditional way of life may not survive.

 


Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

A boy, foreground, receives food for the first time in two weeks at a Red Cross feeding point at a school. His father died in the famine in Loitanit, North Turkana. The drought over the last five years has devastated this region. In some parts the the region close to 40 percent of the people are malnourished.

Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

A child collects maize grains from the ground.

 Ben-Chorin wrote the following upon his return from the region:

I've used my iPhone to take pictures while on assignment or on the road for a while, and discovered the Hipstamatic application while playing around with it.  I find the low-tech, old-fashioned look appealing, and there is always a sense of mystery in the resulting picture.  This technique adds an interesting dimension that allows me to focus beyond the immediate, which a regular camera doesn’t.

These photographs were taken during a three-day trip to the remote Turkana region, which has been badly affected by the long drought in the Horn of Africa. Because it is so remote, and to some extent ignored by the Kenyan government, there is little reporting about widespread hunger and malnutrition in Turkana. But it is bad, very bad. We visited a number of communities and witnessed these proud and beautiful people who have maintained their traditional way of life for thousands of years struggle to survive.

Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

Turkana women waiting for food distribution in the village of Kalapata. Five people have died of hunger in this village alone over the last few months.

Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

Turkana women. The people of Turkana are beautiful, proud and gracious, living a traditional life that dates back thousand of years.

Baruch Ben-Chorin / NBC News

Not far from the worst famine stricken areas, the USAID-sponsored Morulem project offers a sign of hope. The simple irrigation project has created vast green fields of maize and sorghum that feeds 3,000 households in the Lokori area. People here have a surplus of food that they can store or sell.

 

Watch an NBC News report from Turkana:

Rohit Kachroo reports from Turkana, in north-western Kenya, where famine is spreading deeper into the country causing many Kenyans to turn their attention away from the crisis in Somalia and work towards relieving the hunger within its own borders.

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