It's tough for everyone when even the camel cannot stand the heat

Villagers of Horri Guda near North Horr market help a weak camel to get back on its feet in Marsabit County.[Photo: Bruno Mutunga/standard]

For Tura Elema from Horri Guda near North Horr trading centre, the ship of the desert may not reach its destination.

The 53-year-old herdsman was until last Sunday a proud owner of 21 camels, but seven have succumbed to drought in a span of six days. The last death occurred on Thursday as locals watched. The locals describe this as the most devastating drought in decades.

Mr Elema now fears the rest of his camels would die as they have to be literally lifted in an immaculate traditional way to walk to distant areas in search of water and pasture.

Another villager, Shamo Tanda, 64, has lost five camels from a stock of 11 over the same period.

For the Gabra community that heavily relies on the hardy camels that withstand harsh climatic conditions, including severe drought, the animal nicknamed the ship of the desert is now faced with imminent death if external aid is not provided urgently.

Horri Guda (meaning immense wealth) village with 300 households and close to 2,000 camels has so far lost more than 300 camels and the villagers are now worried that more would succumb to the harsh drought.

Monitoring condditions

“Our village has the highest number of camels in North Horr and we have never seen them dying because of drought. We have already lost over 300 camels and we are very worried now,” said Tanda.

The old man said the community measures how bad drought is by monitoring the condition of camels.

“Camels are unique animals acknowledged in the Quran, the Bible and all human traditions. They are hardy and docile and when they feel the impact of drought, it means bad news,” he said.

The villagers also forewarned that at least a third of their camels would die in the coming days as they have got weaker.

“At least four able-bodied men have to use delicate traditional way to help most of our surviving camels to stand up for them to reach the destination. This means they may die any time,” said Elema.

Tanda said the Gabra community economy’s is in jeopardy if the camel population estimated at about 200,000 is wiped out.

“We have already lost a big number of goats and sheep and now we are losing camels. We would be crippled if the drought wipes out all camels,” he said.

For residents of North Horr, the loss of is not just restricted to camels. At Arilo borehole near Gas, locals have lost over 1,000 goats and sheep in the last three days mainly due to lack of water and pasture.

Jarso Ibrae, who migrated from Gas to access the only borehole in the area with little water, said he lost 25 goats and sheep between Monday and Tuesday.

“Over 20,000 goats and sheep rely on this borehole, which is not giving us enough water. The other herdsmen come from Olloma and Malabot,” he said.