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Cow Carcass

camera icon Carcass of a dead cow in Marsabit county, Northern Kenya. - - Christian Aid Ireland/ David Williams

The devastating impact of drought in northern Kenya

Published on 8 November 2022

The worst drought in 40 years is taking a terrible toll on people in the Horn of Africa. In this blog, we hear how the drought is making life much harder for one nomadic herding community in Northern Kenya.

“I’m an old man, and I’ve never seen conditions like this,” says 57-year-old community elder Isako Esimafgaboho.

“There is no water. No vegetation. It has been years without rain, and there is less each year. Conditions are getting worse,” he adds.

Isako lives in a village near Kargi town in the Laisamis area of Marsabit county in Northern Kenya. The community are nomadic herders and rely on rearing a mix of camels, goats, sheep and donkeys for their livelihood.

hut in field

camera icon Isako lives in a village near Kargi town in the Laisamis area of Marsabit county, Northern Kenya - Christian Aid Ireland/David Williams

Northern Kenya, along with the wider Horn of Africa region has suffered four back to back failed rainy seasons over the past two years, resulting in the worst drought in 40 years. More than 20 million people in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are struggling with food shortages. Nearly nine million livestock, which families rely on for their livelihood and sustenance, have died across the region as a result of the drought.

The drought has forced many in Isako’s community to travel far away to find grazing land for those animals that remain alive.

“Goats, sheep and most of the donkeys have died due to drought. Only camels remain,” Isako says.

“The pastures for camels are around 250km away in Mount Kulal. All the teenage boys from our community have travelled with the camels. They were last in the village over a year and a half ago. We only communicate by phone now,” he adds.

Man holding stick

camera icon 57-year-old community elder Isako Esimafgaboho - PACIDA/Tarry Johnstone

he drought has also left over 16 million people across the region struggling with water shortages, Isako’s community amongst them.

“We now collect drinking water from a well about 7km away. The women carry the water on their backs as the donkeys have died or are too weak,” Isako adds.

Before Christian Aid’s local partner provided support to the community, Isako says they used to rely on loans from relatives to be able to buy food, which was delivered to them by truck but that the cost of fuel made this very expensive.

The drought is also causing terrible health problems for the children in the village.

“Now with the drought, malnutrition is on the rise. Ten children in the last year have needed support. This was not a problem before,” Isako explains.

It is also is impacting the children’s education.

“The teacher has left because of the drought and other teachers are unwilling to move to the area”, he says.

Thanks to emergency funding from Irish Aid, families in Isako’s village received three, monthly cash grants of approximately €76 in local currency through Christian Aid’s local partner Pastoralists Community Initiative and Development Assistance (PACIDA), allowing them to buy food and other essentials. They also each received a hygiene kit containing items such as soap, sanitary towels, hand sanitiser, face masks as well as a 20L jerrycan to help them be able to collect and store water. A total of 400 families across Laisamis received this support through our local partner.

“Without the money we do not know how we would have survived, especially the children,” Isako says.

48-year-old community elder and mother of nine Ntalayo Hambulle also received support from Christian Aid’s local partner.

Woman wearing tribal clothes in front of hut

camera icon Community elder Ntalayo Hambulle lives in the same village as Isako - PACIDA/Tarry Johnstone

“The rising cost of fuel has made saving very difficult. Before, we were skipping meals. With the money we bought food and clothes as well as shoes and books for the children. We also bought cooking oil, rice, posho, maize and sugar,” she says.

Despite the support they have received so far Isako explains that with no end to the drought in sight, he is worried for what the future may hold for his village.

“We are praying – before we didn’t pray much, but now we pray much more because of the drought,” Isako says.

“We don’t have hope. We cannot foresee when the drought will end. We fear for our families.”

Woman with children outside hut

camera icon Ntalayo Hambulle outside her home with three of her children - PACIDA/Tarry Johnstone

With your support, we can continue to reach those who are being badly impacted by severe drought in the Horn of Africa.

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