Tana River emergency coffers empty as drought worsens

The dry Bulto Abarufa water pan in Galole, Tana River County.

Photo credit: Stephen Odour I Nation

More than 92,000 people affected by drought in Tana River will have to wait longer for help as the county administration suffers a cash crunch.

Governor Dhadho Godhana said an emergency fund meant for that purpose is empty.

"We allocated the money to mitigate the effects of drought in the last financial year and that money was exhausted in the second season of drought and therefore at the moment we cannot respond adequately to the food intervention,” he said.

Residents, he said, will have to wait until the county assembly approves a supplementary budget that will factor in another tranche of emergency funds.

But he said his administration had partnered with the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) to help in intervention efforts.

The "NDMA has money at the moment, so we are stepping in to help with trucks to ferry water while the Coast water agency is providing the water free,” he said.

He called out the national government for leaving the county out of its relief food intervention programme, saying Tana River residents desperately need food aid.

His sentiments were echoed by members of the county assembly, who said more urgent measures should be taken before the situation worsens.

"We have been worst hit by the drought but the government still found it convenient to leave us out of the relief food plan, that is inhuman," said Hirimani ward MCA Ishmael Kodobo.

Bura constituency, he said, has suffered four seasons of drought unlike other areas of the county and needs urgent support.

"Whoever left us out of that relief food plan should come to our constituency and see for themselves. We are not feigning starvation, we speak reality,” he said.

MCAs also want the county administration to explain how Sh130 million in emergency funds were used, noting that the effect of the money could not be seen in the affected areas.

They appealed to humanitarian organisations to step in and help residents before the situation gets out of control. 

Malnutrition levels have risen to 23 percent, with more than 22,000 children affected, the NDMA says. 

NDMA coordinator Abdi Musa noted that the drought is at the alert stage and encouraged humanitarian organisations to scale up support for the affected people.

"Bura constituency is the worst hit, followed by Galole. There is no single water pan or dam with water. The shortest distance residents can walk in search of water is 25km," he said.

The drought has also affected learning, with attendance in schools Galole and Bura down by nearly half.

The children have abandoned classes to follow their parents to the wilderness to herd livestock.

The drought continues to ravage the county as leaders ponder the next step.