When the wells run dry

Portraits of the drought in northern Kenya

Aruth Naniken is returning home after a long day looking for pasture with his goats in Turkana, northern Kenya.

“I have lost about a hundred goats, it’s about half of my livestock during this drought. It is difficult to find pasture and water for the animals at the moment,” he says.

Drought has swept across Kenya’s arid north-east following two consecutive failed rainy seasons.

Malnutrition rates are alarming especially among children under five and expectant mothers.

Local villagers Jackson Eyanae, Samson Esekon and Samson Losike, are digging a hole to find water.

The Red Cross is supporting the worst-hit communities with health care, clean water, toilets and washing facilities. Cash transfers are being used to ensure people have enough nutritious food.

The Red Cross is giving 7,780 households 3,000 Kenyan Shillings — about £20 — every month. Transfers are made to mobile phones or bank cards through the mobile money firm MPesa.

Giving cash is an alternative approach to the more traditional food hand-outs. It is a good way of ensuring that people can prioritise their own needs.

The well in Adekio’s home village has dried up.

Accompanied by his dog, he has come to find drinking water from a shallow well dug in a dry river bed.

Although the rains have started in many areas in Kenya, the drought continues to bite across the arid and semi-arid regions in the north and north-east.

Farmers have been unable to plant crops and the value of livestock has dropped. In some areas people have lost up to 90 per cent of their livestock.

“Before the drought, my income came from herding and selling the animals,” says Joni Lopariko.

“I have lost nearly all my animals in the raids and the drought. I have just two goats left.

“We tried to do farming, but now that the river has dried, we don’t really have any source of income. The support from the Red Cross is important. We use it to buy food, clothes and one goat.”

“I have never experienced something like this before,” says Lokinyi Ngiminae. “Donkeys, camels, goats — all are gone.”

Last year Lokinyi had 50 camels, dozens of goats and donkeys. Today he has four lean camels and five goats.

As the main breadwinner in a family-of-ten, Lokinyi has been trying to secure their living by farming. But the ongoing drought is making this difficult.

Recently, Lokinyi started to make and sell charcoal, but he is worried about the future: “If the rains don’t come, I believe that even my last four camels won’t survive.”

The Red Cross’ East Africa Food Crisis appeal is there to support people suffering chronic food shortages in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan.

Please give what you can.

Photos: Emil Helotie/Finnish Red Cross.