Ugly face of death stalks Baringo residents seeking water as drought persists

Lopanga Teketee with his younger brother quenching their thirsty on stagnant water at Chebelion Dam in Tirioko Ward, Tiaty Sub-county in Baringo County on January 29,2017. PHOTO: KIPSANG JOSEPH/STANDARD
Several villages in Tiaty, Baringo sub-county, have been abandoned by residents who have left their homes in search of water.

The residents have moved almost 20km from their homes in the hope of finding water to keep alive as one person reportedly died of hunger in Tirioko village.

Silale Ward Representative Nelson Lotela said one person starved to death on Saturday following the drought and subsequent famine in the region.

"We are heading for the victim's home in Tirioko and the situation is bad," he told The Standard on phone.

The Standard's tour of the region on Saturday revealed that people had moved from their homes and were camping on river banks. The only boreholes in Kreeze village had been turned into homes by many mothers and children who tried to pump water to quench their thirst.

"I left my home last week because of water," said a frail-looking Baraza Chemarmar, a resident of Tirioko village about 30km away.

Mr Chemarmar said they were no longer worried about their animals because a good number had died. His concern was for the rising number of frail women, children and the old camping in the area.

Breastfeeding mothers had a rough time taking care of their young ones. They have no milk to offer their babies and are living in fear of death. 

Children crying for water were given empty bottles by their mothers in the hope of soothing them for a little while.

Insects, including bees and flies, competed with the villagers for the little water available.

Women and children surround the fires that are lit at night to provide some heat as others try to get at least a drop of water. Sometimes when it is found, fights break out when the fortunate resident refuses to share with a thirsty dying village mate.

The long wait by the boreholes yields just three litres of precious water - which can take up to an hour to draw.

Women who have given birth said they lost their children due to lack of water and bee stings

News that the Government had launched relief efforts in the area and was supplying water using bowsers was met with surprise.

"We don't know of any Government relief campaign. The food they claim to have been donated has not reached us," said Chemarmar.

Families have been forced to split up - those with the strength have gone as far as Kerio River, a distance of 10km, to fetch water.

Chepwoge Jofri said the men had left home to dig for water by the river.

"Our husbands left home, they went digging by the river in search of water while we stay at home with our children and nurse the old," she said.

Ms Chepwoge echoed Chemarmar's words, saying she had not heard of any relief food being distributed in the area.

In Kreeze, more than 100 school children who depended on the borehole for water were forced to go home after a dam dug by the Catholic Mission Diocese of Nakuru in the area went dry.

Meanwhile, the carcasses of cows, goats, sheep and donkeys dot the parched terrain. In Kongor village, a donkey collapsed and died in the presence of its owner, Kamar Limareng, after walking several kilometres to fetch water from Chebelion Dam.

DEAD DONKEY

A distraught Mr Limareng said the dead donkey was his only companion.

"It is a pity but what do we do? The pain of watching our livestock die helplessly is just too much. We are asking ourselves where is our county government? Where is the national government? We have been abandoned," he said as he looked at his dead donkey one more time before walking away, crestfallen.

Limareng said crocodiles in the dam had since migrated to Kerio River as fish die.

The muddy dam with little water serves the people around it who share it with their goats as well as baboons from the nearby bush.

During the tour, The Standard team saw children drinking from the dam that emitted a foul smell from the rotting fish.

Limareng said the dam water, which has taken on a green-ish hue, was their only option.

"This all we have and as you can see, goats drink from here; we also drink from the same place. Baboons also come here," he said.

Fredrick Keses, a contractor from Marigat building a primary school in Chepng'eret village, said he saw the suffering of the people and offered to ferry water at a fee.

"When I came to this, I sympathised with the residents and decided to help. But I had to charge a fee because the place where I fetch water from is more than 10km from here," said Mr Keses, who charges Sh20 for every 20 litres delivered.

The residents said the lack of food was not so much of an issue as the persistent lack of water in the region.

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hunger and drought in kenyafaminebaringo county