Over 140, 000 residents in the county of Kilifi face a severe drought, whereas thousands of animals are dying of starvation. According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, more than 3,000 cattle have died in just last week alone.
A few kilometers north of Malindi, residents have learnt the hard way to cope with the very harsh conditions which keep worsening every day.
Most of the residents rely on wild fruits from the cacti and may go for days without food and water.
It has been at least four years since the last normal harvest season and the scope of this famine has never been felt before.
In the wake of the razing drought, President Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster, where Kilifi County stands out as the most affected county in Kenya.
He pointed out from the Ministry of Devolution and Planning and Treasury to come up with plans to neutralize the current threat.
Red Cross regional boss Hassan Musa stated that the drought situation was very devastating. “Out of the six counties at the Coast, five are affected. They include Kilifi and Tana River, where most livestock are dropping dead due to lack of water and pasture.”
Kilifi County alone has witnessed the death of more than 1,900 cows. About 350 have died in Lamu County and more than 1,000 in Tana River County.
As most of rural homes in Kilifi County mainly depend on ground water for sustenance, most of these water sources depend on annual and perennial rain seasons, however, as the rains have gone for more than three years. These conditions have caused the water sources to dry out, and grasses that have been depended upon for livestock have dried out. This has made the livestock very weak and unable to be traded.
Hassan Musa has stated that the government has started water tracking through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to distribute water to the affected families, he also encouraged other stakeholders raise their helping hands in the situation.
“Twenty per cent of the remaining water pans are not clean for human consumption, making it unsafe for the residents to drink. As of now, a cow that would ordinarily go for Sh40,000 is being sold at Sh5,000, and if the government will not buy them, then the owners will enquire huge loses,” stated Hassan Musa. “The next phase of our support is sending cash to the worst affected households in Kilifi.”
Kilifi County is one of the most affected counties in terms of water and sanitation services, for the past two years there has been poor rainfall in the region, it is only this year that rainy seasons have picked up, mostly in Malindi southwards.
The Malindi Water and Sewerage Company (MAWASCO) has been known to have problems with delivering its water services, in some cases the region might go up to two weeks without water.
Water shortage has been a major case in this region, leading residents to travel miles to get water, the people with steady income might opt for bottled water, which is a bit expensive.
On the other hand, pastoralists face the biggest challenge where they have to travel miles to find pasture for their livestock, most of them have had major losses of their animals due to the rising famine.
Statistics have shown that more than two million Kenyans are stranded with lack of food and water. More than 300,000 residents on the coastal belt suffer from lack of enough food and water, whereas almost a half of the number comes from the Kilifi County. In this region Magarini, Ganze, Kaloleni and rural Malindi respectively are affected the most.
At a national level these counties have been severely hit by the drought situation, Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit and Kilifi. The National Drought Management Authority has assessed the severity of the drought situation and is working on ways to work on regions that need intervention the most.
Other regions that have been partially affected by the drought include Baringo, Kitui, Isiolo, Tana River, Kwale, Kajiado, Narok, Lamu, Samburu, Makueni, West Pokot, Laikipia and Taita Taveta.
The situation in northern Kilifi County proved to be worse when reporters at Gandini, Magarini Constituency, witnessed dogs feeding on cows’ remains.
According to the area’s Assistant Chief, James Lewa, more than 600 cattle had perished, while others were slowly withering away in the sight of the desperate owners.
Many of the residents have raised their voices calling out for the government’s help but nothing has since been done so far.
“My cows were my only source of income. I have two sons who are yet to join secondary school. I was to sell the cows to raise money for school fees, but now the future looks bleak for my family,” stated Kitsao, a resident.
The situation has increased many folds since last year which led to a massive livestock loss. Many activists have raised their hands and pointed towards climate change as the cause of the ongoing famine.
This is because of the flooding of the River Sabaki back in 2018 when it destroyed most of the crops and settlements near the river bank triggering a stoppage of the rain seasons.
Ganze’s Member of Parliament, Teddy Mwambire raised his voice blaming both the national and county government for lack of commitment towards finding a better solution.
“We need to speak the truth and admit that the national government and county government have failed. We need to think about the future and find lasting solutions, not the knee-jerk reaction being used by politicians,” stated Teddy Mwambire.
It is not yet clear if the condition is going to get any better and the residents now have to survive only on God’s mercy.