Isiolo hit hard by drought, hunger

Shambani borehole

A girl pumps water at Shambani borehole in Burat, Isiolo County, on September 16, 2021. 

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Susan Longoricho, 92, from Kambi Garba village in Isiolo has not eaten for the last two days.

She says food is so hard to come by that she has to survive on the mercies of her neighbours, and often visits neighbouring Esimit, Shambani and Attir villages in Burat ward to beg for food.

“As you can see, I am so weak because I hardly get enough food and often sleep on an empty stomach,” the nonagenarian says.

Tightly holding her walking stick, we catch up with Ms Longoricho walk past the dry Isiolo River whose bridge separates her village from Shambani, where a borehole has been sunk to offer domestic and livestock water to residents.

The borehole also benefits residents of Attir, Alamach, Lotiki and Esimit.

Beneath the dilapidated bridge are some herds of cattle quenching their thirst as some children pump water from the borehole to fill tens of jerrycans.

Several women, a few elderly, are seated next to the troughs waiting their turn to fetch water and proceed home though reducing water levels at the borehole worries them.

“I walk one kilometre to fetch water from the borehole daily as the river has been contaminated by effluent,” she says while castigating the government for giving empty promises while they continue to languish in poverty.

Hunger in the area has been so serious that a middle aged man, who was reportedly hypersensitive, died last week after going three days without eating.

Susan Longoricho, 92, at her kitchen in Kambi Garba village, Isiolo County, during an interview on September 16, 2021. 

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Casual jobs, relief food

Mr Sammy Longoli Lokenyi said the drought was threatening pastoralism and farming as they could not get enough water to irrigate their farms and water their animals.

“We used to farm but the changing climatic conditions that have resulted in reduced rainfall in the past few years have made it impossible for us to undertake farming,” said Mr Longoli noting that only God, angels and the government could salvage the situation.

The 61-year-old father of 10 said the majority of the families were relying on casual jobs and relief food, which is not adequate, to sustain their families.

“I have some health complications and I am assisted by my children who rely on casual jobs,” he noted while adding that relief food interventions only benefited a few people.

Also faced by hunger is Ms Akolong Kwekwel, 65, from Esimit village who previously relied on charcoal burning to get food for herself and grandchildren.

“We are no longer allowed to fell trees and burn charcoal leaving us with no source of income and forcing us to become beggars,” she told Nation.Africa outside her timber house.

“We live a day at a time because we are not sure how and when we will get food,” another resident, Ms Nakusi Lenyekop, says.

Waterborne diseases

Water shortage and dwindling pastures has resulted in emaciation of livestock with parents in the area reporting cases of waterborne diseases among children.

Reports indicate that diarrhoea cases across the county increased by 22 percent between January and June this year compared to similar periods in 2020 due to acute water shortage and poor hygiene practices.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) reports indicate that more than 2 million Kenyans are on the brink of starvation due to hunger occasioned by drought that has ravaged 10 out of 47 counties with Isiolo among the four counties at alert stage.

The others are Wajir, Marsabit and Garissa.

The most affected wards in Isiolo are Cherab, Sericho, Oldonyiro, Garbatulla and parts of Burat ward with 55 percent of residents facing hunger according to County NDMA Coordinator Lordman Lekalkuli.

The drought has resulted in drying of nearly 90 percent of water sources threatening pastoralism across the county as residents in far flung areas walk for more than 14 kilometres to watering points.

The poor condition of animals due to reduced pastures has resulted in reduced prices of livestock products such as milk and meat making it hard for the pastoralist households to afford food.

A two-year-old goat that was months ago selling at Sh4000 is now going at Sh2500 with the price expected to further reduce in the coming months.

Depressed rains

Much worrying is a report by the Meteorological department of depressed October-November-December short rains.

Garbatulla Deputy County Commissioner Stephen Nyakundi said the majority of the residents were in dire need of food assistance and appealed to the county government and local Non-Governmental Organisations to intervene.

“Over 90 percent of Garbatulla residents are faced with hunger and it is time for those with some food to share with their neighbours while we seek interventions,” he said during last week’s interview with Nation.Africa.

The NDMA official said the government was offering water trucking services, fuel subsidy and fast moving spare parts for boreholes in the hard-hit areas to ensure residents have enough water for domestic and livestock use.

He said they were in the process of procuring 8000 bags of livestock feeds to support pastoralist families and help them salvage their emaciated animals.

More than 1000 pastoralists in Chari and Oldonyiro three weeks ago benefited with animal feed donations by the USAID-funded Nawiri program.

President Uhuru Kenyatta last week declared drought a national disaster to ensure food security is realised in line with his Big Four Agenda.

Conservation important

British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott on Thursday toured Shambani area in Isiolo to assess the impact of drought on the lives of ordinary Kenyans ahead of UN global climate talks to be hosted by the British government in six weeks’ time.

The envoy called for formation of national policies and concerted efforts from all in tackling the drought situation in Kenya and maintained that the UK government was committed to advocating for fair climate deal and global action to protect Kenya from future shocks.

“The UK government is committed to working together with the Kenyan government and other actors in offsetting the impacts of climate change. I came here to assess the situation to get the real picture before the conference,” said Ms Marriott.

She urged community members to shun tree felling and embrace conservation as effects of climate change were causing a lot of suffering to women, children and youths.

It is estimated the climate crisis could cost Kenyan economy Sh250 billion a year and therefore need to act now and mitigate the effects, she said.

The Ambassador said the British government has in the last three years spent Sh17.5 billion on climate change related activities in Kenya.

While promising to offer relief food to the hungry residents, Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti said declaration of drought as a national disaster will pave the way for support by several partners to collaborate with the county governments in ensuring the situation is remedied.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding asked the residents to take advantage of the trees to venture into beekeeping and warned them against deforestation.