Tana River grazing fields now filled with carcasses as drought bites

A carcass of a cow that died as a result of the drought in Wayu Boru, Tana River County.

Photo credit: Stephen Oduor| Nation Media Group

More than 1,000 heads of livestock are feared dead in Tana River County as drought ravages the county.

What used to be green grazing fields filled with grass and fodder is now a bed of carcasses as residents count losses each day.

Villages are filled with choking odour as locals teeter at the brink of imminent starvation owing to lack of food and water.

According to the residents in Wayu Boru, the number of dead livestock could be more as some of the herders have returned home empty-handed from the 390-kilometre walk from Waldena to Lamu in search of pasture.

"We had walked more than 40 kilometres to the nearest water reservoir. A few kilometres to the water point, the cows got tired from the scorching sun and started falling, we had to carry them to the water source," says Ismail Kushushu.

Mr Kushushu has lost 15 cows and each day, he watches as the health of the remaining 20 deteriorates.

The water pans that were just a kilometre from the village have dried up and are now filled with carcasses of livestock and wild animals that used to depend on them.

For calves to survive, the residents have to go an extra mile, which is an expensive affair.

"The mothers cannot produce milk, therefore we have to buy UHT milk for the calves which sell here at Sh70 a packet and are hardly available," says Abdi Golo.

Their efforts to dig wells are not yielding what they hoped for, as all they keep getting is saline water.

Do not intervene

In the event a private water supplier shows up with a water bowser, each family is only allowed to fetch 40 litres of water selling at Sh25 per litre.

Most affected are children and local schools where teachers have run to Hola Town to survive the drought.

"This school serves no significance at the moment, our children are suffering from hunger, teachers are equally thirsty and nearly starving, it will soon close down," says Amina Abarea, a resident.

According to the county Kenya Red Cross Coordinator Gerald Bombe, the situation is getting worse as the few water pans left contain toxic water which is unsafe for human consumption.

Mr Bombe notes that the seven shallow wells remaining are all salty hence harmful for human consumption.

He warned that human lives will be lost if the government and well-wishers do not intervene immediately.

"There are more than 800 heads of cattle still in these areas and they don't have the strength to make it to the Tana Delta. They will be dead by the end of the month if something is not done," he says.

The Red Cross Coordinator notes that more than 7,000 people are starving in the upper Tana River sub-county.

He also appeals to the county government to supply drugs in the health centres and invest more in energy supplements for the children that are facing malnutrition.

"This is serious, let us not wait until people start dying before we start responding, let us act now and act fast," he says.