The ugly side of a drought hit nation

Every day, we wake up to traumatizing news of the high number of people facing starvation in Kenya. The news in form of heart wrenching images filling our TV screens and doing rounds on different social media platforms.

These are images that no one can afford to view twice. They are images of emaciated children, women, men and even animals. The drought has not spared anyone; with animal carcasses being seen everywhere. Our country is slowly turning into a nation of abnormal creatures; leading abnormal lives.

People experiencing the real wrath of drought are the pastoral communities, with their efforts being divided between finding pasture for their livestock and food for themselves. They are watching helplessly as the cruel hand of death continue turning their once healthy livestock into carcasses.

From Turkana to Tana River, Baringo to Baragoi, Laikipia to Lodwar, Marsabit to Mandera, Ijara to Isiolo, effects of drought and starvation are real. People and animals are losing battle to starvation every other day. Those lucky to see sun rise are not sure about watching as the sun sets; they are staring at the ugly face of death.

With people spending days and even months without something to drink or eat, this reduces their hope of seeing another day. Some of them people especially those in Turkana and Samburu are now depending on some wild fruits for food.

The fruits are poisonous and hence cannot be cooked the same way we cook food at home. They require a lot of water to neutralize the poison. With the water scarcity nightmare they are experiencing, women are forced to trek miles and miles away in the search of water points.

They camp at there, light fire and begin the process of preparing “meals” for their families. They spend days at here and return home only after having prepared “enough food” to take their families for days.

Men and boys also move out to look for water and pasture for their livestock. People are spending months without interacting with each other. Drought has interfered with their social lives.

A government agency recently announced that the number of Kenyans facing starvation has increased rapidly due to the prolonged drought being experienced in different parts of the country. The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said that the number has now risen from 1.3 million last year to 2.7 million this year.

These figures are worrying, bearing in mind that the situation is expected to get worse as time goes. Meteorologists have already warned that rainy season will delay; news that has now sent cold shivers down the spines of Kenyans.

Some of the counties where people are facing starvation are known to be perennial drought hit areas. Every year, residents have to wait for relief food from the government and well-wishers. Sometimes, delivery of relief food delays, arriving only after residents have starved to death and their livestock unable to withstand the severe conditions of starvation.

Kenya is a country full of resources and with their proper utilization, we can manage to counter the drought before its conditions extend to adverse stages. We have both underground and surface resources enough to deal with the situation.

In 2013, government through Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Regional Development Authorities Prof. Judy Wakhungu announced that hydrologists had found large aquifers of water in Turkana and Lotikipi basins. The two aquifers were estimated to contain 250 billion cubic meters of safe water. The water could serve the whole country for over 70 years, basing it on the fact that Kenyans consume around 3 billion cubic meters of water yearly.

Although several tests have been conducted since then, not much has been done initiate abstraction and treatment of the water estimated to be lying at about 300 meters from the surface. This is definitely sad news for the Turkana residents and Kenyans at large who celebrated the discovery of the aquifers.

With the increasing demand for water in Kenya including in major cities like Nairobi, it would be necessary for government, Non-Government Organizations and other stakeholders in the water sector to pool together resources and initiate this project that could see Kenyans having more than enough water for themselves and their livestock.

Late last year, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company announced plans to ration water supply to residents. The directive is still in force and is expected to extend up to April this year. The company cited low water level in the main dams supplying the thirst quenching commodity to Nairobi residents.

If we can utilize all the water resources available, we will start having a sustainable food supply for every Kenyans, for a whole year. Rationing of water especially in towns will be a thing of the past, with communities living in arid and semi-arid areas being able to engage in agriculture to produce enough food for themselves and their livestock.

Efforts by companies like Africaqua coming up with safe water models and initiatives aimed at dealing with water shortage nightmare might not be enough to quench the thirst of ever increasing number of deserving Kenyans. More entities should come on board and support such initiatives in order to help in dealing with the monster-drought.

With this, we will then be able to stand high and claim to have defeated drought and starvation. It is time to stand together, mobilize resources and invest in water projects or we sit, relax and continue watching heart wrenching images of fellow Kenyans and their livestock being mauled by merciless jaws of drought.

 

David Mwaura,

Communications Officer, Africaqua Limited

 

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