The ugly side of the drought stricken Wajir County, Northern Kenya

The face of drought in Wajir County, in Kenya’s north is ugly. The land is bare and expansive, multiple whirlwinds sweeping across every now and then, which local myths call ‘the devil’. It is emaciated animals feeding on what seems like invisible grass on the ground or camels browsing on thorny remains of what used to be green leafy bushes. Masses of evidently emaciated livestock hurdling to quench their thirst around water points, after hours-long treks in search of the same. Women will wait patiently in line to fill their jerry cans to take back home.

Dead livestock are a common sight in many parts of Wajir, in northern Kenya, which is in the grip of a severe drought that is expected to last until October 2017. Families have been sunk into increasing vulnerability. Men are struggling to provide for their families, their faces are sad and strained as they stare into the unknown future, while the eyes of women and children dart about in hope whenever ‘visitors’ drop by their villages.

In July, an assessment of the drought crisis in the country revealed that 3.4 million people are now severely food insecure and need urgent food assistance. Of these, 800,000 will likely be in a more serious food situation as time passes by.

The blame lies squarely on the prolonged absence of rain in the region. It is long since the residents experienced a downpour, hence no sensible farming activities go on. The merciless hand of drought has robbed the community of its livestock that serve as a sign of heritage and source of food.

Lack of the appropriate food has plunged the community members into a state of confusion, as thousands of children and adults suffer from malnutrition. This puts the victims at a higher risk to attack by other serious diseases since their bodies do not have enough energy to protect themselves. Unfortunately, Wajir is sharing the predicaments with her neighboring Mandera county, where over 800, 000 children are now staring at an unknown future due to malnutrition and other related ailments.

Africaqua have been setting up safe water projects in arid and semi-arid areas in an effort to counter the effects of severe drought ravaging the lives of community members in the areas. Kimana, Matuu and Narok projects are complete, with community members now accessing water easily at an affordable price.

This is believed to be the only solution to the problems facing different arid and semi-arid counties in Kenya. On top of providing people with a sustainable source safe drinking water, the projects will give people an opportunity to even do subsistence farming in order to have a “stable” supply of food.

 

NOTE:

Image and some sections of the story Courtesy of Oxfam

Prevention is better than cure

By David Mwaura

Death is the last thing anyone would opt for. Meanwhile, it is a rite of passage that everything that has life must go through. What causes death is what makes it to be different in different creatures like human beings. One of the main causes of death in people is disease.

There are various diseases that have been classified as the major killer diseases in people. Some of them include HIV/AIDs, cancer, and malaria among others. On the list is also cholera, which is a bacterial infection of the intestines. The disease has the capacity to kill within hours if not treated at an early stage.

Since December 2014, Kenya has been experiencing continuous large outbreaks of cholera, with a cumulative total of 17 597 cases reported (10 568 cases reported in 2015 and 6448 in 2016). This year, cholera outbreak was active in Nairobi and Garissa County. From January 7 2017 to July 17 2017, the two counties reported 1216 cholera cases including 14 deaths.

Contrary to the common belief that cholera cases are only reported in slum areas, some of the first class hotels in Nairobi have also reported the outbreak. This led to shutdown of some of the facilities, to pave way for investigations. In an effort to curb the rising cholera outbreak and spread in urban areas, the ministry of health directed that all informal food joints be closed. The order was meanwhile not effected.

Symptoms of the disease include vomiting, muscle cramps and diarrhea which in severe conditions lead to death within a few hours. This is due to excessive loss of water through diarrhea.

Curing cholera is very difficult and hence, prevention is the best thing one can do. At this point, I would like to echo the words of Desiderius Erasmus; a Dutch philosopher who once said, “Prevention is better than cure.”

This article gives a summary on some of the measures one can put in preventing attack by cholera.

The Six Basic Precautions in Cholera Prevention

1. Drink and use safe water

  • Bottled water with unbroken seals and canned/bottled carbonated beverages are safe to drink and use.
  • Use safe water to brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, and to make ice.
  • Clean food preparation areas and kitchenware with soap and safe water and let dry completely before reuse.

To be sure water is safe to drink and use:

  • Boil it or treat it with a chlorine product or household bleach.
  • If boiling, bring your water to a complete boil for at least 1 minute.
  • To treat your water with chlorine, use one of the locally available treatment products and follow the instructions.
  • If a chlorine treatment product is not available, you can treat your water with household bleach. Add 8 drops of household bleach for every 1 gallon of water (or 2 drops of household bleach for every 1 liter of water) and wait 30 minutes before drinking.
  • Always store your treated water in a clean, covered container.

*Piped water sources, drinks sold in cups or bags, or ice may not be safe and should be boiled or treated with chlorine.

2. Wash your hands often with soap and safe water;

 

  • Before you eat or prepare food
  • Before feeding your children
  • After using the latrine or toilet
  • After cleaning your child’s bottom
  • After taking care of someone ill with diarrhea.

3. Use latrines or bury your feces; do not defecate in any water body

  • Use latrines or other sanitation systems, like chemical toilets, to dispose of feces.
  • Wash hands with soap and safe water after defecating.
  • Clean latrines and surfaces contaminated with feces using a solution of household bleach and plenty of water.

4. Cook food well (especially seafood), keep it covered, eat it hot, and peel fruits and            vegetables

  • Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Leave it.
  • Be sure to cook shellfish (like crabs and crayfish) until they are very hot all the way through.

*Avoid raw foods other than fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself.

5. Clean up safely-in the kitchen and in places where the family bathes and washes              clothes

  • Wash yourself, your children, diapers, and clothes, 30 meters (98 feet) away from drinking water sources.

6. Consider getting vaccinated before you travel

 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a single-dose live oral cholera vaccine called Vaxchora. Vaxchora. It is recommended for adults who are 18 – 64 years traveling to an area of active cholera transmission with toxigenic cholera transmitting bacteria to prevent infection.

Time to collect and store water for future use is now

The long awaited rains have finally come and farmers who were eagerly waiting for it are now very busy in their farms. Nothing seems to be deterring them from doing what they do best, despite the fact that the weather man recently expressed fears that the expected rains will be short lived.

This just tells you how hardworking Kenyans are but also shows how desperate they were waiting for the rains. It has been more than 8 months of severe drought that has negatively impacted on every living thing.

The drought has seen us lose a number of people to hunger as thousands of animals succumb to hunger and starvation. It has indeed been a condition whose effects have been felt by Kenyans, irrespective of their areas of residence.

In December last year, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWS) announced a four month water supply rationing in Nairobi. This followed a decrease of water level in Ndakaini dam to around 40% capacity. The dam is the main source of water for Nairobi residents, supplying over 84% of the total water used by over 6 million people living in the city. The rationing initially reduced water supply in the city by 13%.

The rationing affected and is still affecting the city residents, who have now been left at the mercy of water vendors who are selling this vital commodity at an exaggerated price. The price of a 20 liter jerrycan is now going for between 30-80 shillings depending on the estate. This is indeed very costly especially for families requiring a lot of water in a single day.

In early March, the NCWS managing director Philip Gichuki made an announcement that sent cold shivers down the spines of Nairobi residents, thrashing their hopes of receiving normal water supply from WCWS. Gichuki announced that the rationing that was initially supposed to run until April could now be extended to September, due to the continued decrease of water level in Ndakaini dam. It is alleged that the water level at the dam now stands at 30%. This has now led to a farther decrease in the supply of water in city to 20%.

Barely a week since the rain started, it has already caused havoc in some parts of the country. The usual run offs are now back and might get worse with time. We need to take the advantage and collect the run off for future use.

It will be very shameful for us to cry that we do not have water either to water our animals or irrigate our crops later in the year when run offs dwindle. If this water is tapped and stored in high capacity dams, the issue of water shortage in the country could be a thing of the past.

In 2015, almost every part of the country experienced massive run off. We watched as the water swept across the major towns like Narok and Nairobi, vandalizing properties worth billions of shillings. The idea of tapping the run off did not hit us. What followed is severe drought that affected almost every part of the country.

My hope is that we have learnt from our previous mistakes. Central government, county governments and private sectors should now come together and have a serious discussion on how the run off could be tapped and stored for the future.

David Mwaura, Communication Officer

Treatment, storage crucial factors

By Millicent Mwololo

Kenyans had little to celebrate even as the  World Water Day was marked  two weeks ago,  given that drought has been ravaging many parts of the country, which  relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture.

“This is probably where we have gone wrong. A country that has been independent for more than 50 years should be having alternatives when it comes to drought mitigation,” says Mr David Mwaura, the communications officer at Africaqua Ltd, which runs a water project in Loitokitok in Kajiado County. “Resources should be pumped into sinking boreholes and irrigation schemes in different parts of the country.” says Mr Mwaura.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is “Wastewater” and focuses on ways of reducing and reusing wastewater since more than 80 per cent of all the wastewater from homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature, polluting the environment and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.

“This calls for innovation in water treatment and storage techniques,” says Mr Paul Owino, a water researcher and the operations director at His Healing Hand Africa, an organisation that advocates for the sustainability of safe water, latrine use, and handwashing in communities.

Sustainable Development Goal 6, Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, includes a target of halving the volume of untreated wastewater and increasing water recycling and safe use. Initiatives like building dams and water pans for harvesting rain water will go a long way in cutting down wastage.

“But it is necessary to do our homework before setting up the schemes to avoid allocating  funds to worthless projects,” argues Mr Mwaura. Mr Owino agrees, saying that the sustainability of boreholes and other water infrastructure should be addressed before the government sinks more resources into water projects: “Water projects consist of soft and hardware aspects, but in most cases the government and private organisations place emphasis on the hardware. They tend overlook the fact that the soft aspect (training, education, monitoring and evaluation) is equally important to achieve sustainability,” he says. “We cannot afford to keep appealing to the international community for relief food. It is something that no one with a sound mind can justify. It is a big shame.”

PREVENTABLE DISEASES

In Oloitoktok, for instance, the community has been using water from trenches, which they share with wild animals, says Mr Owino, whose organisation runs a project in the area. This exposes the community to water-borne diseases. Kajiado County is about 30 kilometres from Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, which makes the water gradient very steep. That means that sinking boreholes in the area is very expensive. Its proximity to the mountain also ensure that it receives good rainfall which, ironically, causes flooding.

It is, therefore, important that the government invest in alternative water sources, says Mr Owino, who he is running a water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) project. Before embarking on the Oloitoktok project in January, 2016, Mr Owino conducted a needs assessment in the community.

“I engaged the local community, local health centres, and teachers. That is when I discovered that the water used in homes was drawn mainly from trenches, which were shared with wild animals,” he says. With the failed rains, these trenches dried up months ago, as did seasonal rivers.

“This means that the residents cannot achieve basic hygiene and sanitation levels,” he notes. That is why he located the WASH project in  at Namelok ABC Primary and Secondary School in Namelok Village.

“Handwashing with water and soap can help reduce the chances of contracting preventable diseases by 50 per cent,” he says.

In 2015, Mr Owino conducted a research on the state of water, sanitation and hygiene as a component of free primary education (FPE) in Maseno Division,  Kisumu County. He found that there were inadequate WASH facilities to support the programme. Many of the teachers interviewed felt the government did not give priority to WASH in schools, and most teachers and school administrators had inadequate knowledge of WASH.

Consequently,  the study recommended that the Ministry of Education and other relevant ministries work together to increase WASH awareness and sensitisation through workshops and seminars for teachers, and to adequately train school administrators and teachers on the subject.

It also recommended that the government increase the budgetary allocation for FPE to cater for WASH and develop effective monitoring tools on how funds are used.

“The government should ensure that all schools have a functional WASH policy document and monitor the implementation at the grassroots level,” Mr Owino  says.At Namelok Primary School, Mr Owino and his colleagues educate the pupils on why they need to wash hands, how to do it and why they should drink clean water.

They then sank and rehabilitated a 75-ft borehole, installed 25,000-litres storage tanks, dug gutters, installed a solar pump and safe water treatment and hand washing stations with soap.They also introduced a WASH club where learners share their experiences and why hygiene and sanitation are important. “The project is  integrated and  includes a permanent water source that is  shared by the two schools in order to promote health and hygiene effectively,” he says.

The only challenge is that the project did not receive 100 per cent support at home.

WATER HYGIENE TRAINING

“Even though we have trained and sensitised the community, without sufficient water supply, it is difficult to maintain quality hygiene and sanitation at home,” Mr Owino adds.Still, the project has realised some results.

“There has been improved health among the students, with teachers having noted an increase in class attendance, increased concentration in class and improved academic performance among pupils,” he says.Mr Daniel Saning’o, the headteacher of Namelok Primary School, says that since the installation of the storage tanks, safe water and sanitation facilities, the school environment has become more conducive to learning.

In August 2016, the government launched a Sh50 billion project to ensure that  all schools in the country have safe water. The pilot projects of this ambitious undertaking have been launched in Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties, where 50 schools are targeted.

“This will reduce water-borne diseases among school children. We have to partner with innovative safe water solutions to save lives,” said Water and Irrigation CS Eugene Wamalwa. According to Unicef  about 1 million children under five might die this year from preventable water-borne diseases.

“Most of these could be saved through grassroots water hygiene training, which is why the government and the private sector have to partner to make water easily accessible,” says Mr Owino.

The water shortage in Oloitoktok can also be attributed to the high population growth; with the county bordering Nairobi, there is an influx of immigrants from the city, which has overstretched the few water resources.

Last year, Africaqua piloted its first water in Africa in Oloitoktok. Mr David Kuria, the company’s CEO, said the One Safe Drop Initiative in Oloitoktok could deliver 20,000 litres of clean drinking water per day to the residents of Kimana.

However, the residents are concerned about the pricing. A 25-litre jerrican goes for Sh50 at the Africaqua water shop, which the local pastoralists say is prohibitive.

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FYI

More than 80 per cent of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated or reused. (Sato et al, 2013).

Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030 – includes a target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe use.

647

The amount in cubic metres of annual renewable freshwater supply per capita in the country today

235

The amount in cubic metres of annual renewable freshwater supply expected in 2025

59%

Access to improved safe water supply in the country

32%

Access to improved sanitation

 

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NATIONAL DISASTER

Per capita supply forecast to decline

KENYA IS CLASSIFIED AS a water-scarce country because it has an annual renewable freshwater supply rate of 647 cubic metres per capita, which is way below the global standard of 1,000 cubic metres.According to the WHO/Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme 2014 report, access to safe water supply throughout Kenya stands at 59 per cent, and access to improved sanitation at 32 per cent.

This means there is still an unmet need for both water and sanitation.Water resources in Kenya are simultaneously scarce by natural endowment and underdeveloped in the current water supply systems. The country faces challenges in water provision, with erratic weather patterns in the past few years causing drought and water shortages.

In addition, the population growth has meant that water  continues to be scarce. It is estimated that by 2025, the country’s per capita water availability will be 235 cubic metres per year, compared with the current 647 cubic metres.

Urban migration is a major contributor to challenges in sanitation, as people crowd into cities, whose growth is unregulated. For instance, in big urban centres like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret, residents experience regular water shortages due to inadequate supply.

Due to lack of access to water and sanitation, especially in the country’s arid and semi-arid areas, diarrhoea is the second killer — after pneumonia —nof children under the age of five (excluding neo-natal mortalities). Water-, sanitation- and hygiene-related illnesses and conditions are the number one cause of hospitalisation in children below the age of five.

Meanwhile, access to clean water and sanitation contribute to time savings for women, more hours in school for girls, and fewer health costs.

Initiatives like His Healing Hand Africa and AfricAqua aim to bridge the last mile by connecting low- income communities to basic water services. This will, hopefully, improve the economic livelihoods of the communities and at the same time ensure quality, affordable and sustainable water supply.

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The article appeared on Pg 30 of Daily Nation (DN2) April 3 2017 .

http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/DN2/Treatment-storage-crucial-factors/957860-3877822-k37lak/index.html

Kenyans celebrate World Water Day as millions still lack access to safe water

Kenyans will in the next few hours join the whole world in marking the World Water Day, 2017 fete. This is an event that is marked on March 22 every year. The first event was marked on March 22, 1993 following recommendation by the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and approval by The United Nations General Assembly.

Since then, several steps have been made in the water sector in order to deal with the global water problem. Different themes have been used in different years with the celebrations generally focusing on the importance of fresh water and also advocating for the sustainable management of fresh water resources.

Despite the fact that some measures have been put to liberate people from the jaws of drought and starvation due to lack of clean water, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done globally to fix this menace. For example, according to UNESCO annual report 2013, over 760 million people globally have no access to clean water.

In Kenya for instance, over 17 million people have no access to safe water. They rely on unsafe water for survival and this exposes them to serious health issues. This has led to several deaths especially in children, with an estimated 3, 100 children succumbing to water related infections every year.

This year’s celebrations come at a time when over 3 million Kenyans are facing starvation and imminent death due to the prolonged dry season. It also comes at a time when hundreds of thousands of livestock and wild animals have lost the battle to starvation.

Access to water has been a nightmare especially in the Northern and North Eastern Kenya, with residents being forced to cope with the painful reality of severe effects of starvation. It is meanwhile shocking that this happens when a lot of water get wasted every day in factories, farms and households in other parts of the country.

This is water that could be treated and supplied to people for domestic and farm use. If this happens, the number of people of people without access to water will now be able to get access to this vital commodity.

The “water and wastewater” theme has therefore come at the right time although some people might argue that it took it too long to do so. Wastewater is untapped resource that could save a lot of people from the jaws of drought and starvation.

Factories especially the processing ones use a lot of water in their daily operations where much of the water go into waste after normal operations. The water joins sewage channels and some of it percolates into the ground.

If properly tapped, this water could be treated and be made useful either in the same factories or elsewhere. This means that factories need to have a water treatment systems to remove waste and harmful materials from the discharge water.

Meanwhile, even as we focus on how to make use of wastewater, we have to think on methods of minimizing waste of water. This vital commodity should be used sparingly to ensure that the available amount is enough for everyone.

This is a culture that should also be observed at home by ensuring that there is no water that goes into waste. Grey water from kitchen sinks, tabs, washing machines and other kitchen appliances should be conserved for use in the farms.

This will help us a lot and there will probably be enough water for everyone in this country where according to JMP report of 2015, available per capita water is estimated to be about 650 cubic meter per year.

This year’s celebrations in Kenya will be held in Mecheo Secondary School in Nyamira County. The event will bring together stakeholders in the water sector, both in national and county governments as well as from the private sectors.

We need to think beyond rainfall in the fight against drought

It is more than 7 months since the onset of the drought in different parts of the country, with perennial drought hit appearing in the news for the same old reason; starvation and death.

Images of animals and human beings stricken by starvation have been showing on our screens and printed on the first page of national newspapers almost daily. This has been very frustrating especially viewing images of emaciated children and women, facing imminent death.

More shocking details and images from North Horr have shown how serious the situation is getting. Camels, known for staying between 5 to 6 months without water have now been unable to withstand the conditions. The scorching sun has dried up the last drop of water in their bodies, leading to death of over 300 camels in the region.

With the seriousness of the situation, it is difficult to comprehend how human beings who can only stay for between 3 to 5 days without water are coping with the conditions. To make the matter worse, the Kenya Meteorology Department (KMD) recently warned that the situation might get even worse, as there will be very little rainfall in the rainy season that is usually between the months of March and May.

Meanwhile, even as we shift focus to the perennial drought hit areas, we should not forget that the situation is almost similar in other parts of the country. People are struggling to get food and water.

The weekend scuffle in Ndeiya Kiambu County where residents scrambled for relief food is an indication that the situation has gotten worse. Various groups had organized and delivered relief food to the residents but its distribution did not go as planned.

Residents hijacked the distribution process, grabbing what they could afford, just to boost their hope of seeing another day. When the conditions got uglier, the organizers had no option other than allowing residents to have their way. This is the situation in other parts of the country.

By declaring the countrywide drought a national disaster, President Kenyatta on behalf of the nation indicated that the situation is now out of control. If the international communities do not intervene, we should expect more heart wrenching images from different parts of the country.

The menace we are in today is as a result of the prolonged absence of rainfall. We are a country that fully depends on rainfall for livestock and crop farming. This is probably where we have gone wrong. A country with over 50 years of independence should be having alternatives when it comes to drought mitigation.

We have rivers and lakes that usually flood during heavy rainfall. We watch as the floods sweep across our major towns and later start complaining about drought and hunger. We seriously need sustainable agricultural development for food security in our country to avoid scenarios like the ones we are currently witnessing.

Resources should be pumped into irrigation schemes in different parts of the country. But it is necessary for us to do our homework well before setting up the schemes to avoid allocation of funds to worthless schemes.

With legitimate irrigation schemes and alternative water sources, we will be sure of beating drought and starvation hands down. Irrigation is and will be the only way to deliver us from the jaws of starvation.

We cannot afford to be crying out to international communities for relief food. It is an act that no one with sound mind can stand to justify. It is a big shame.

David Mwaura, Communications Officer-Africaqua Limited

Kenya expects poor rainfall in March-May season

Kenya is expected to receive poor rainfall in the main March to May rainy season, the meteorological office said, a situation which could exacerbate an already acute drought.

Weather forecasts in Kenya, which largely depends on rain-fed agriculture, are key in gauging inflation trends.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) said in its long rains (March-May) outlook that food growing areas of Western and Nyanza would have near-normal rain.

“The expected poor temporal distribution of the seasonal rainfall is, however, likely to negatively impact most agricultural areas,” KMD said in a statement.

The weather office said that agricultural areas in the southeast of the country were expected to receive poor rains during the period, as were parts of eastern and northern Kenya.

“Food security is expected to deteriorate over most parts of the country and more so the northern areas of Kenya,” KMD said.

“The poor rainfall performance expected over the Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASALs) will continue to impact negatively on the livestock sector.

” Kenya’s inflation rate rose to 6.99 percent year-on-year in January, up from 6.35 percent in December, partly due to drought and a rise in the cost of electricity.

Last week, the government declared a national disaster and appealed for aid to counter a drought that is posing a risk to people, livestock and wildlife.

The Kenya Red Cross has estimated about 2.7 million people need food aid after low rainfall in October and November. Kenya is the world’s leading exporter of black tea, making it a major foreign exchange earner.

KMD also said that poor rains in the October to December season had led to crop failure in most agricultural areas, lack of pasture and reduction of water levels in Seven-Forks and Turkwell hydroelectric dams.

Reuters

Africaqua among the GSBI Program Accelerator finalists, 2017

Africaqua CEO David Kuria will be attending the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) In-Residence Accelerator program at Santa Clara University in California from August 9 to 18, 2017.

Kuria will join representatives from 15 other social enterprises across the world for the 10 days activity meant to strengthen the operations of social enterprises to enhance goal achievement and impact creation.

Africaqua is a social enterprise based on a safe water value chain model involving watershops, green distribution mechanisms and Micro-Distribution Centers (MDCs). The company is targeting to establish a chain of MDCs both in rural and urban areas in order to curb the ever rising water shortage nightmare in Kenya.

The program will enable Africaqua through the CEO to network in order to help in fulfilling the dream of providing rural and urban poor with access to safe drinking water at an affordable price.

Africaqua was listed among the 16 finalists of this year’s program that had attracted over 275 applicants.

 

 

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