Officials worry about return to drought

By Lucy Murunga

Officials in the northeastern part of Kenya are worried a lack of rain could lead to the return of drought-like conditions that swept across the Horn of Africa in 2011.


While heavy rains have been pounding most parts of Kenya since March, in Wajir, in the northeastern part of Kenya, the lands remain dry.


drought_photo2Earlier in the year, the Kenya Meteorological Department predicted a below normal rainfall for the March to May “long rains” season for Wajir. Until now, not even a single drop of the treasured rain has been recorded.


In Habaswein district where World Vision’s Wajir South area development programme (ADP) works, residents are growing desperate.


According to Jacob Alemu, project manager of Wajir South, residents of Habaswein are already asking for water trucking to begin.


“This is very worrying, the situation could only get worse in the coming months as the pastures get depleted and the few water sources remaining run dry,” Jacob warns.


“The greatest and urgent need is water, the main sources of water in the area are natural dams and excavated water pans, but these have all since dried up while the few boreholes available cannot serve the entire population affected,” Jacob explains.


A total of about 77,080 people is affected, including children.


In addition, diminishing water sources have also increased trekking distances to access water.


Daniel Nduti, the district commissioner for Wajir South, is appealing for emergency water interventions, warning the situation could only worsen.


“The general situation is currently not alarming, however if no measures are taken, then we could be staring at a major disaster in the coming months especially July, August and September,” Daniel explains.


Daniel repeatedly mentions that thirst is weighing hard on the residents, emphasising the need for providing clean water for drinking.


But it is not only the water situation that is of great concern.


Food too, is causing much worry. The commissioner says food is available but very expensive with a kilogram of rice-the community’s staple food- retailing at 2 US dollars, an amount too costly for the poor and struggling residents.


Esther Nyambura, a World Vision Kenya program officer for the Horn of Africa response to the drought warns that by the end of August there could be no food to eat for the already food stressed residents whose lifeline – livestock – are under threat from diminishing water and pasture.


The October to December short rains improved foliage and pasture for the livestock dependent pastoralists of Wajir, but the resources are rapidly diminishing, and competition for the few remaining food and water sources is looming large.


As a result, the project has initiated a special meeting with its partners, the district steering group, which is the technical arm of the government on disasters at the local level and other agencies to see how best to mobilise resources and share out roles to help the stressed community.


“We also plan to conduct a needs assessment and plan to develop a concept paper for emergency water interventions in the settlements where there is greater need because the funding we have is not sufficient to conduct a major response,” Jacob notes.