Kenya: Prolonged Drought Leaves Families, Animals in Samburu Starving, Again

Residents of Bubisa village in Marsabit County show the devastating effects of drought in this picture taken on April 4.

Thousands of people in Samburu County are facing starvation as drought continues to ravage the region.

The situation has taken its toll on the people with little respite in sight, leaving authorities on high alert.

As the number of malnourished children increases by the day, county leaders are desperately seeking food aid to save the vulnerable population already battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the invasion of desert locusts.

The worst affected are women, children and the elderly from the northern parts of the county, who trek for long distances in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock.

Children have dropped out of school to help their parents in an unforgiving environment that threatens their existence.

Wamba, Archers Post, Baragoi, South Horr, Barsaloi, Suyian, Loonjorin, Opiroi and Nachola are the most affected areas.

In some areas, desperate families have been waking up as early as 4am to sit on roadsides to beg for water from motorists. Throughout the day, they endure the scorching sun.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) coordinator in the region, Alex Leseketet, said there has been an acute water shortage in Samburu East and Samburu North.

"The situation is getting worse. Pastoralists have been hit by water shortages and pastures have been exhausted," Mr Leseketet told the Nation, adding that about 50,000 people are in dire straits in Samburu County.

Urgent intervention

The authority issued a drought alert about a week ago and called for urgent intervention. Mr Leseketet said most pastoralists have started moving away in a bid to quench their animals' thirst.

It's the same script in Marsabit, Isiolo, Baringo and Turkana counties. Due to escalating tension and insecurity, some pasture areas are inaccessible.

There is concern that the situation may spark conflicts as groups scramble for the scarce resources. "Most of the pastoralists have moved their cattle to dry grazing season areas. We have also established that there was a decline in milk production and consumption at household levels," Leseketet said.

Data from NDMA also shows severely malnourished children stand at 0.2 per cent and moderately at 26.7 per cent.

The affected families are now calling upon the government to intervene speedily, saying many were at risk of malnutrition. Those rearing camels are relying on milk for survival.

The chief officer of the special programmes department in Samburu, Daniel Lesaigor, said a massive humanitarian intervention may be required to address the situation.

"We have already developed a multi-hazard contingency plan to help in intervention because the situation is on a high alert," said Mr Lesaigor.

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