*(Kenya, 16 July 2011) *ActionAid has today warned that women in Kenya are
resorting to the life-threatening practice of binding their stomachs as
hunger in East Africa escalates. The revelation comes as the UN announces
that 11 million people have been affected by one of the worst droughts in 60

The women say that the binding – done with either cloth or rope – helps them
to stave of hunger as they wait for food. Whilst the practice has been
happening for generations, it has become more widespread as the drought has

Zippora Mbungo, an 86 year-old farmer from Makima in Kenya says:****

*”Women discovered the rope tying trick after we experienced frequent
periods of drought and crop failure in our region. Tying helps us to walk
and work even when we are starving. *****

*“When my family has very little food, I give food to my grandchildren
first, leaving little or nothing for me. On many occasions the food
available to us is maize and I can’t chew on dry maize because I am too old.
That is why I tie this rope around me.”*****

Stomach binding can be lethal, if the untying process is not done
gradually. It has been known for women to die after untying their stomachs
too quickly, once food becomes available.****

Philip Kilonzo, Hunger expert for ActionAid Kenya, says:****

*“Stomach binding is a risky process and shows just how desperately hungry
women are because of this drought.*****

*“But the worst part is not in the tying but the untying of the stomach to
adjust to food availability. This can be lethal. It has to be gradual and
women have died suddenly after untying their stomachs. “*****

The practice is more prevalent amongst women, as they do not have the
opportunities that men do, to seek work outside of their villages during
drought. Also if men do bind their stomachs, often they do it secretly as
they are expected to be strong and not show weakness.****

** **

ActionAid workers in Kenya report that where donor-funded food distribution
programmes are reaching communities, some women are beginning to loosen
their bindings. But with the rains not due till October, the food crisis is
likely to deepen, with more women putting themselves at risk.****

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