People in Turkana, Kenya, need urgent help

The current drought in Turkana County, in north western Kenya, has become a matter of life and death for children and families across the region.

The region and the Greater Horn of Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years according to the United Nations. More than 3.5 million people are already affected. The number is rising and the country’s response is not keeping pace.

Pastoral families living in the arid and semi-arid area have lost a majority or all their livestock. Many can neither feed their families nor themselves. Many have moved to areas they hope will have just enough to save their lives. The long treks, empty stomachs and the scorching sun are taking their toll. The situation has led to an ever increasing number of children who are now so malnourished.  Children as well as adults could easily die. Some have already been reported to have died from hunger. On Monday 25th July 2011, a 27 year old man died in Turkana County. More are more likely to follow.

The situation in Turkana and the larger northern Kenya has reached acute emergency levels. The poor pastoralist families need help immediately. Many lives are at stake.

So what is Practical Action doing to help? We are helping build resilience to drought by:

•  rehabilitating water structures (ponds, shallow wells, storage tanks)

•  improving the market for stock

•  supporting animal health services

•  integrating traditional natural resource governance systems with formal government systems focusing on drought management

•  improving access to information services – animal and human health, water, rangeland, vaccinations, seasonal forecasts and technology

•  linking them to other emergency service providers

The government, humanitarian organisations as well as well-wishers need to urgently mobilise resources and not only deliver relief quickly to save lives and end suffering but also, for the sake of the future of these populations, help communities prepare for future crises, since major droughts are becoming increasingly extreme and common with climate change. Together with local communities and governments in the region, we need to develop climate adaptation plans and development plans that aim to build resilience of these communities to withstand future emergencies.  This process needs to be backed financially through the funding of programmes to avert future crises.

With the prediction that the next rains are very unlikely until October, we can only expect things to get worse before they get any better for the affected populations. Therefore, we need to look to the future and put years of experience and knowledge in drought mitigation to greater use to ensure that communities can build the resilience needed to avert disaster.

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