Amazing Facts About The Sahara Desert

By: Jackie Edwards

The Sahara Desert is enormous. It covers 3.6 million square miles and is the world’s largest hot desert. It expands over a vast area of North Africa, including Tunisia, Egypt, Chad, Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Sudan and Libya. Like so much of Africa, The Sahara Desert is desperate for water.

Not a drop to drink

There is a water crisis in Africa and The Sahara Desert is no exception. There isn’t enough water to sustain life in most of the desert, and there are only two rivers that run through, The Niger and The Nile. Aside from this there are approximately 20 lakes, but only one of these has drinkable water. In the sub-Saharan region the population is struggling without regular access to water and this is predicted to get worse in the decades to come.

Wildlife of The Sahara

The climate of The Sahara Desert makes it suitable for only certain kinds of wildlife. Camels are what springs to mind when we think of the desert. Camels survive due to their amazing ability to go without water for over 2 weeks without water. It is a myth though that camels store water in their humps.

The animals that also thrive in this extreme desert environment aren’t necessarily ones that you’d want to get friendly with. Scorpions (including the terrifyingly named Deathstalker Scorpion) are common in The Sahara. Rodents and snakes have also acclimatized themselves to the desert atmosphere. The Desert Horned Viper is the most common snake to be found in the desert, especially in the sand dunes. Watch out for those pesky Nubian Spitting Cobras too.

The desert wasn’t always dry

There was once a huge river network running through the Sahara Desert. The vast quantities of water made the area green and verdant. It’s hard to imagine that the desert was once teeming with wildlife, but 5,000 years ago the desert was thriving and beautiful. Now, due to the lack of water, the desert is inhospitable. The average annual rainfall of the desert is only a few inches, not enough to sustain the vast amount of wildlife that it once did. And certainly not enough to sustain human life.

We can only survive a few days without water, it is such a shame that this vast area can’t be home to a population that needs somewhere to live. Water is truly the key to all life.

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.



Image and some sections of the story Courtesy of Oxfam