As the drought bites, thousands face the risk of starvation


With each passing day, the drought situation moves from bad to worse. If nothing is done — and done quickly — many fear it will not take long before people begin dying from the biting hunger.

Scores of families are on the move across Kajiado, not knowing where the next stop will be as they seek to reach the greener pastures of Narok. With each step, more dust is blown into the endless expanse of dust and dried vegetation. Carcases of cattle, sheep and goats litter the horizon. Herders watch helplessly as their livestock, too weak to continue the journey, fall down to their death one after the other.

The desperation is discernible on the faces of men, women and children as they march quietly to join their luckier kinsfolk in Narok. The drought that has struck Kajiado this year is causing a devastation not seen in recent memory.

“All areas of Kajiado County have been affected by the drought,” said Joshua Kaaka, who was until last year a senior principal chief. “As we speak, I am also in Narok.”

There is drought in Narok as well, the retired administrator said, but not as severe as in Kajiado. “The watering points and boreholes have also dried up. This is the right time to intervene and the government can use its network of chiefs and their assistants to identify those affected.”

Children on the move

Across the length and breadth of the rural areas of Kajiado, children have been forced to quit school and join their families in the search for food, water and pasture. Farms have been abandoned, the crops stunted and all but forgotten. With each passing day, the drought situation moves from bad to worse. If nothing is done — and done quickly — many fear it will not take long before people begin dying from the biting hunger.

Surprisingly, there is deafening silence from authorities even as locals cry out to the government for help, any help. A meeting convened by Governor Joseph ole Lenku to discuss the drought situation has been overshadowed by local politics and ongoing intrigues, especially surrounding the forthcoming election of a County Assembly Speaker following the recent general election.

The silence from authorities is not surprising considering that the past few months have seen high-profile campaigns across Kenya. As the political season now draws to a close, the drought has hit with a vengeance, wreaking havoc and leaving families starving and destitute. With national attention having been fixated on the general election and subsequent presidential petition at the Supreme Court, victims of the drought have been all but forgotten.

Human-wildlife conflict

The herders would have wished to sell their livestock than see their precious wealth destroyed by the drought, but there is nowhere to sell. The Kenya Meat Commission, however, has not taken the initiative to act, so the herders can only wait and hope that they and their animals will stay alive, one day at a time.

Wild animals are also affected and have been escaping from the national parks, exacerbating human-wildlife conflict. Compensation for the loss of life or property arising from wildlife attacks takes years to process. Recently, a demonstration against wildlife attacks by residents of Masimba led to the deaths of several people when police opened fire on the crowds.

If not checked, the increasingly sinister menace of drought is likely to take centre-stage in the next few months as most of Kenya’s arid lands dry up. In many areas of the country, this also comes with security implications as devastated communities seek to replenish their livestock from those of neighbouring communities. Livestock insurance is a relatively new concept and not widespread, which means there is no compensation for the lost animals — and no sort of safety net from the government.

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