Drought leads to poor sanitation in Samburu

Samburu morans quench their thirst at the recently rehabilitated borehole at Mbukoi area in Samburu North on July 13, 2021.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Ondieki | Nation Media Group

Water scarcity due to a prolonged dry spell has led to poor sanitation and hygiene in Samburu County, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says.

A new report, the agency says poor hygiene poses substantial health risks in rural and urban areas in the pastoral region now being ravaged by the "worst drought in four decades".

Some 48.1 percent of households reported accessing water from various forms of wells, 22.2 percent depended on boreholes and 20 percent from dams and water pans in October, the NDMA says.

"Water scarcity due to [the] prolonged dry spell has led to poor sanitation and poor hygiene collectively, posing substantial health risks both [in] rural and urban centres," the report says.

Water scarcity in households is worsening, and rapid population growth in urban centres has caused an imbalance between water demand and supply.

Residents in rural areas walk 8.3 kilometres each way to fetch water, up from 6.8 kilometres the previous month, an increase of 22 per cent.

Pastoral livelihood zones such as Waso, Wamba North, Wamba West, and pockets of Ndoto, Nachola and Nyiro have limited access to water, and households there trekked about 15-20km in search of water for domestic use.

Meanwhile, Samburu Governor Jonathan Lelelit has appealed to the government to buy off emaciated animals and cushion struggling pastoralists from huge losses due to drought. He said the county is enduring one of the harshest droughts in recent memory and locals are in a humanitarian crisis.

Most locals practise pastoralism and depend on livestock for their basic needs, and animal deaths from the drought have undermined their economic and food security.

He wants the government and other partners to buy stocks of cattle at a reasonable price so as to cushion pastoralists against losing their livelihood.

"The drought is getting worse here. We call on the government to start the off-take programme and buy weak cattle. If not so, about 10,000 of them will die this week, only because there is no water and pasture," the governor said.

He said the drought is worsening because of inadequate short rains and a new off-take programme is needed. A similar programme was hugely successful previously in reducing the number of livestock during persistent droughts.

The destocking, he said, will help remove the affected animals before they become emaciated, lose their value, die or pose a risk to public health. He added that the programme will enable pastoralists to salvage some capital from their livestock at risk and support families with cash to meet their food needs and other basic necessities.

"We want them to salvage some capital and relieve pressure on scarce water and pasture resources and protect their livelihoods. By doing this, we will have strengthened the communities' ability to recover from the long effects of the drought," Mr Lelelit said.