News 2008


Post-poll: 35,000 people in northern Kenya face starvation




Nairobi, Kenya - At least 35,000 people in northern Kenya face hunger and starvation as a result of a debilitating drought and post-election violence that cut off food supplies to the mainly pastrolitist communities, a British international charity, ActionAid warned here Saturday.

"Already, people in over 28 trading centres in Takaba district rely on water delivered in trucks because water in shallow wells and water-pans has all dried up, " Mr Enrico Eminae ActionAid-Kenya coordinator in northern and northeast region warned.

He said an estimated 35,000 people in Takaba, a hamlet in the far-flung province that borders Somalia and Ethiopia, face acute shortages that call for rapid response.

Eminae said the situation had been compounded by a serious drought that has resulted in acute shortages of water for the pastoralists' livestock.

He also warned that pastoralists in southern Ethiopia and western Somalia face even a more serious food insecurity "and there is the risk of them migrating to Kenya which will further strain the dwindling

Arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya rely on food grown in western and rift valley provinces that were recently affected by post-election violence.

When a similar drought occurred in 2006 ActionAid-Kenya commissioned a 200 million litres Takaba Community Water Supply project to serve 20,000 people.

Eminae said "for pastoralists' communities, scarcity of water for people signals hunger, because livestock, their only source of food and income, are at greater risk in such times."

Water and pasture shortages are a constant source of conflict among herders and the ActionAid-Kenya official expressed fears the worsening situation could trigger inter-ethnic conflicts over dwindling water and pasture.

"It will trigger conflict over resources as people from different clans criss-cross each others territory in search of pasture and water," he said.

Northern and north-eastern provinces of Kenya, which constitute nearly half of the country's landmass, are semi-arid, but produce over 60 percent of the beef for domestic consumption and export.

ActionAid identified Tana River, Ganze, Ijara, Sericho and Modogashe districts, as where pastoralists are migrating from.

According to Eminae, grazing areas and water resources are diminishing fast with the possibility of livestock, the economic main-stay of the dry lands, dying in large numbers as the available resources are already over-stretched.

"Livestock health is deteriorating fast. The failure of long rains in March could trigger a crisis," he said adding "flash-floods could also compromise the survival of animals whose health will have deteriorated
before the rainy season."

In Sericho, the Ewaso Ngiro flood plains have dried up, with the river receding up to about 100km up-stream.

The communities have to rely on the shallow wells drilled in dry riverbeds, he said.

ActionAid said in a report that in Tana River and Ganze districts, pastoralists are already migrating with their livestock in search of pasture.

"It is in such times that conflicts flare up between the farming and animal keeping communities over grazing and farming areas," the report said.

The charity said the situation in Takaba region is even more fragile as more pastoralists have migrated to near Takaba town with their livestock in search of water.

Pastoralist fall-outs are burgeoning in all the neighbouring villages of Darwed, Didkuro and Wangaidahan in search of alternative livelihoods.