10,000 on brink of starvation as drought, banditry take toll

Locals wait for their rations of relief food distribution by President William Ruto

Locals wait for their rations of relief food distribution by President William Ruto to hunger victims due to drought, at Nakaalei in Turkana County on November 5, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

More than 10, 000 villagers in the banditry-prone Suguta-Kapedo belt on the border of Turkana, Baringo and Samburu counties have appealed for urgent food aid.

A searing drought has led to the scarcity of pasture and water, compounding a food insecurity crisis that has persisted due to prolonged conflict.

Tensions have been high since authorities launched a security operation last September after bandits shot dead eight police officers, a chief and two civilians at Namariat near Kakiteitei village in Kapedo/Napeitom Ward.

Women have been left to fend for entire families as men wander far and wide with their depleted herds even as death stalks them in the rugged terrains.

In Ng’ilukia, Lomelo, Kamuge, Kakiteitei and Kapedo, women are unable to venture out to fetch food and water due to fear.

“We have few men remaining in our village because they are out grazing the few animals they have in groups,” Ms Keya Emoi Loboko told Nation in Kakiteitei.

Every day, she prays for her husband’s safe return from the grazing fields in deadly Suguta valley.

In Ng’ilukia village, Ms Nakoro Elimlim said their only reliable water source, which is salty, is only a kilometre away, but fetching the precious liquid is often a matter of life and death.

“When we want to venture out there for water, we usually assemble, pray for bravery and ask the few police reservists available to escort us to the water point, which our neighbours in Baringo County don’t want us to use,” Ms Elimlim said.

Deep pockets

Bandits who are often financed by people with deep pockets, she claimed, want to force them out of their villages and even attack those who try to access markets in Lokori or Marigat towns.

Pointing to the fresh carcass of a camel, a local herdsman told Nation their animals are not producing milk due to thirst and hunger and are sickly. He said heavily armed bandits were in control of all water points along the common borders. 

Kamuge Senior Chief Johnmark Lotun told Nation that, due to insecurity and drought, some villagers had fled to Lokori town due to its relative safety and ease of access by humanitarian agencies. Since Monday last week, the Kenya Red Cross has provided over 1,000 families in Kapedo/Napeitom Ward with relief food supplies.

Food supplies

Each of the families got 20 kilogrammes of maize and rice, five kilogrammes of beans, and two kilogrammes.

Others food supplies were two kilogrammes of unimix (an enriched flour obtained from a ground mixture of maize and bean that is used to fight malnutrition in children aged between six and 59 months) and a kilogramme of tea leaves.

Locals are now appealing to humanitarian organisations and well-wishers to provide more relief food in villages that are yet to be reached.