HIV patients abandon drugs in painful wait for fate as biting drought ravages families

Farmers in Bamba village try to retrieve a cow from a muddy swamp where it got stack and later died in search of water after the prolonged drought that has hit some parts of Ganze, Kaloleni and Magarini in Kilifi County, October 18, 2016. Traders from Kilifi are transporting bags of grass to Bamba, about 60km and to sale them at a cost of Sh200 per bag for the cows and goats to feed on. [PHOTO BY GIDEON MAUNDU/STANDARD].
The life of about 13,000 HIV/Aids victims is at risk with majority of them are going without food due to drought in Migori County.

The situation is so bad that some patients have opted to stop taking anti-retroviral (ARVs) drugs on an empty stomach.

The chairman of persons living with HIV/Aids in Migori, Isaiah Nyangotho said: “We have an association of people taking the drugs in the region and some members have been forced to take the drugs on empty stomachs and this is dangerous for their lives.”

Jack Oteng, a member of the group, said most members have started defaulting on their drugs because they hardly get a meal in a day.

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Government and civic organisations have been urged to give people taking ARVs supplementary food as drought ravages parts of the country.

Mr Nyang’otho appealed to government and aid agencies supplying food to drought stricken areas to make provisions for HIV/Aids patients.

“Some of us are contemplating stopping to take the drugs for a while which have negative effects like fatigue, joint pains and dizziness when taken with only one meal a day,” he said.

The situation is replicated in other parts of Nyanza where residents are faced with starvation following massive crop failure and dwindling of pasture for livestock.

Many parts of Nyatike have been ravaged by prolonged drought. Rivers are drying up and the few wells cannot cope with the high demand for water for domestic and livestock use.

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Nyatike Sub County Administrator Apolo Ogutu said the situation might worsen towards January.

Residents of Bande in East Kadem, Nyatike Sub County are now calling for help from the County and National government after the only dam that was sustaining them started drying up.

According to area chief Esther Adongo, the residents have so far lost 30 animals and the number is likely to increase if the drought continues.

“The cows have died after getting stuck in mud that has remained of the Bware dam, which is drying up at an alarming rate,” she said.

“My brother Joseph Okolo lost 3 cattle in the same day when they got stuck in the mud. They were too emaciated to walk and thus they had to be pulled out and slaughtered,” a resident identified as Obinju said.

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The drought, which began early this year, has forced farmers to trek long distances in search of pasture and water for livestock.

In some homes, children have stopped going to school to help search for water.

The chief said there were no rivers in East Kaden, adding that the area depended on the only dam and ponds that have all dried up.

“I wish to confirm that about 3,000 people are effected. We are staring at a major disaster. Because of the drought, we did not plant in the second season,” she said.

The residents told The Standard On Sunday that the area suffered crop failure in the last harvest and the only food available cannot last for three months.

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The residents are currently relying on polluted water from a nearby dam dug in 1952 as they wait for the county government to complete sinking a borehole at Bande Girls.

The dam now serves human, domestic and wild animals. It is muddy and on the verge of drying up, just like the local streams. County Public health officers have since warned the villagers against drinking the water as it is heavily polluted.

And more than 200,000 residents of Homa Bay and Siaya counties are faced with starvation following a prolonged drought that has resulted in poor harvest and lack of pasture for livestock.

County and National government officials identified the worst affected areas as Nyatike, Karachuonyo in Homa Bay, Rarieda, Yimbo and Alego in Siaya counties where there has been no rainfall since May.

Most residents have left their homes with their animals in search of pasture and water.

Siaya County Commissioner Oningonio Olesosio said residents are facing starvation after poor harvest and trek long distances in search of water.

The Ministry of Interior noted that in Alego, 84,000 people were adversely affected by the drought.

Ironically, Alego straddles the expansive Yalla Swamp, where an American company is managing a multi-billion farming enterprise and produces thousands of tones of rice and maize.

“According to a rapid assessment report by National Drought Management Authority, I want to confirm that majority of residents of this county are affected by hunger and require food aid,” said the County Commissioner.

Mr Olesosio said the government was still monitoring the situation and would give aid in affected areas.

“We shall distribute food in all six sub-counties with the help of assistant county commissioners,” he said.

The County Commissioner said Bondo and Rarieda sub-counties are the most hit and called on the county government to help the affected families.

Speaking to The Standard on Sunday, Bondo MP Gideon Ochanda said most residents were facing starvation. “We last saw rain in May this year. People and their animals are suffering in equal measure,” said Mr Ochanda.

“This is a national disaster and we are calling upon the government to urgently intervene and save the situation,” he added.

Siaya County Deputy Governor Wilson Ouma said that mothers and children were most affected.

Mr Ouma regretted the locals had nothing to eat after crop failure in the last harvest.

“The situation is getting worse and we fear that some residents may lose lives if the situation persists,” he said.

He assured that the county government is investing in irrigation to improve food security.

Hellen Achieng, a resident said they have been forced to walk long distances to fetch water.

“Water has been a problem here but with the prolonged drought, things are really getting hard,” said Ms Achieng.

The sub-county’s crop officer Dennis Omedo, said only 250 acres have so far been cultivated for the short rains season instead to 3,000 acres of land as a result of drought.

The officer disclosed that the region needs about 180,000 bags of maize every year adding that the current supply in the market was last harvested in 2015 and the stocks are dwindling fast.

“Last year we had a high yield of 200,000 bags of maize. It is this supply that has kept the maize prices below Sh100 per 2kg tin for a whole year but this could soon change if the farmers do not cultivate during the short rains,” he added.

The Siaya County Executive Member for Agriculture, Phelgona Ooko said the rains failed in September.

“Despite the little rains coming, it was very erratic and a lot of it was just a drizzle. Places that border Gem and Ugenya Sub County are better off because they received good rainfall. The larger part of Alego Usonga has been greatly affected as most people harvested below 40 percent as expected,” the CEC explained.

-Reports by Scophine Otieno, Isaiah Gwengi and Olivia Odhiambo