KENYA: Water crisis as dry conditions persist in the north

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Serious shortages of water and pasture for livestock are being experienced in the northern Kenyan districts of Isiolo, Mandera and Wajir as dry conditions continue, local leaders said.

"The situation is very bad in Mandera; people are moving across the border to Ethiopia," Mandera East member of parliament Mohamed Hussein Ali told IRIN.

"Residents from the district have yet to recover from a severe drought two years ago; [now] we fear the few animals that were salvaged will be wiped out," he added.

The rainy season had been expected to start in mid-March, the MP said, but because the rains failed, water pans, boreholes and wells had dried up.

"The country is focused on people who have been displaced by post-election conflicts," Ali said. "We have been forgotten."

Mukhtar Hussein Liban of the Mandera Education Development Programme told IRIN the drought had heightened tensions over resources between different communities in the region. It had also affected schools.

"Many children, especially those in lower primary, have abandoned learning to join their parents in search of pasture and water," he added. "The health status of children has been affected owing to the lack of milk and the long distance they have to trek to look for water."

The regional drought management coordinator, Sora Molu, said the authorities were hiring tankers to ferry water and relief food to the remote parts of the affected districts.  

In early 2007, a severe drought hit the region, decimating livestock populations. Generally, conditions in northern Kenya are harsh, with drought a common feature of the semi-arid region. Conflicts between the pastoralists and with communities from neighbouring Ethiopia are also common.

In a March weather outlook report, Stanslus Gachara, director of the Kenya meteorological services, noted that Northeastern Province was expected to experience near-normal rainfall with a tendency towards below normal.

Source: IRIN