Drought in Kenya - 2.4 million starving people

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Drought in Kenya - 2.4 million starving people.

In most areas, farmland, water and food supplies are nearly all gone, writes Nick Guttmann

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When I and some colleagues from the charity Christian Aid met Mamo Toro last month, on a dusty road in northern Kenya, the 19-year-old herder hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in 24 hours.

He was alone with a young female camel who was about to die. He was very upset. The land had previously had lots of grass for the animals to eat, but now it had all gone.

The camel was making a desperate, terrible sound that is hard to forget.

Mamo told us his story. He and his fellow herders had left the nearby town of Balesa with 42 camels. They had gone 70 kilometres in search of water.

While the rest of the group had continued, taking Mamo’s camels with them, he had stayed with his dying camel overnight, going without food or water, desperately hoping it would survive.

But it would be dead in just a few hours. The future was not looking good for Mamo. This was his second camel to die in 24 hours.

We gave him some food and water, and drove him up the road, but he still had a six-hour walk to find his friends.

This sad situation is becoming across northern Kenya, where drought has left 2.4 million people desperately short of food.

In the 37 years since I first travelled to Kenya, I’ve never seen it so dry. Marsabit is one of the worst affected regions: it has hardly rained here since October 2015.

Everywhere we went, we heard the same message: this was the worst drought anyone could remember.

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Abudo Hurri, 85 and Tesso Yattani Abudo, 65, with their grandson in Qorqa Diqa village in Kenya’s Marsabit County. It is very difficult to find enough food to eat each day. Credit: Dub Guyo

I can’t remember how many dead animals I saw: camels, sheep, goats, donkey and cows. I saw goats eating animal waste: there was nothing else for them. The smell of dead animals was everywhere.

In most areas, there is a lot less farmland, water and food. Mamo and many others have to walk for a long time to find water and places where their animals can eat. But their animals are still becoming weaker and many are dying.

Some people we spoke to had lost everything, and nearly everyone had lost most of their sheep and goats. They didn’t think the animals still alive would survive much longer, especially when they had to walk so far for water.

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Many animals have died in the drought, because of not enough food and water. Credit: Nick Guttmann

Animals are so important to these communities in northern Kenya. It is how they can feed their families. But now people are unable to sell their animals, and so have no money for food or water. Without animal milk, children’s health also suffers.

One man I met, 80-year-old Dalach Anole, told me he had never known it to be so bad. He used to own 600 sheep and goats. Now, only 40 remain. He worries they’ll die even if it rains because it will take time for the grass to grow again. It may be years before he himself recovers fully.

Many others in Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where millions are going hungry every day, have the same view.

In Kenya, some people have been trying to provide urgent support by providing water tanks and additional money. But they need more.

Climate change means that droughts are more frequent and also worse than ever before. In addition to war, these are the biggest challenges to ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization).

If we want to stop future catastrophes, we need to help communities manage and reduce risk before disasters happen. We must help them adapt to climate change. This will help to save lives.

I have seen the difference this can make. In the Hurri Hills in North Horr, communities have defended themselves from the drought by storing animal food and building water tanks.

‘Without the resilience programme we would never have survived,’ village chief Roba Aboubo told me.

Statements like these show why it’s so important that the UK and other governments provide support for reducing risk and understanding how to fight against disasters.

But in the places where I have visited, humanitarian aid will be needed. The crisis is so large.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/blog/2017/04/13/drought-leaves-millions-of-kenyans-short-of-food/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).