Hope wanes as biting hunger, insecurity take a toll on locals

Loosuk Water Project in Samburu County. Governor Lati Lelelit has appealed to the government to intervene to mitigate the impact of drought, saying the situation was getting out of hand. [File, Standard]

More than 150,000 people in Samburu County require relief food as hunger levels hit alarming levels.

In an interview with The Standard, Samburu County Commissioner Henry Wafula said drought had a toll on the people, with projection by State agencies painting a grim picture.

"Life here has become a grim exercise in survival for many - drought, hunger, lack of water and insecurity seem to have conspired against the communities here," he said.

"We need help for the people," said the administrator, who added that he had written to relevant authorities about the situation and requested urgent food assistance.

He spoke as unconfirmed reports from Suguta Valley indicated that at least two children aged 7 and 10 had succumbed to hunger. According to Lawrence Lorunyei, an MCA, Nkoorua Itulo and Aleper Lorinyon died last week of what the families claimed was hunger-related.

The Standard could not immediately confirm the claims. Wafula could not confirm or deny the deaths but maintained that the hunger situation was dire and required urgent attention from the State.

"As the regional administrator, I have done what I'm supposed to do. The last consignment of relief food we received here was in January, which we distributed to all sub-counties. Now we have no food left," he said.

Samburu, like 23 other ASAL counties, is suffering a record drought which, coupled with soaring food prices and plummeting donor funding to humanitarian groups, has left more than 3.5 million people starving, according to report by government agencies.

Many residents of this sparsely populated area in the northwest, near the boundary of Samburu and Turkana counties, practise pastoralism. But as drought bites, they have become more miserable.

The most affected areas are Suguta Valley, Serolipi, Archerspost, Wamba, Ngilai, Suwari, Lodungongwendonyo, Wasi, and Loikas. Others that are highly impacted by famine are residents of Baragoi, Morujo,Marti, Lomerok, Longetei, Nachola, Parkati, Bendera, Kawap,Ewaso Rongai,Seren, Elaut, Barasaloi, Suyan, Masikita and Nyiro.

According to local leaders, drought, famine, and the presence of bandits in Suguta Valley have left the region and its people in a desperate situation.

"The situation is critical here. People are dying of hunger and there is no water. This drought s even worse than before. We haven't seen any food aid yet," Lorunyei said. According to the ward rep, residents live in unsanitary condition due to lack of water.

"It takes us more than six hours to bring home salty water, transporting it on our backs," he said, adding that basic services such as hospitals and school are unavailable.

"I have been rising these issues to the relevant authorities. I have spoken to the governor, the county commissioner and all those concerned but nothing much is done," Lorunyei claimed.

He appealed to President William Ruto to intervene, saying more people were likely to suffer if nothing is done soon.

A number of residents of Suguta Valley have resolved to use canoe and make a dangerous voyage to the neighbouring Turkana County via Lake Lokipi, which is at the border of Samburu and Turkana counties.

"Those who have relatives on the other side, decided to use canoes to cross over to Turkana County to escape hunger. A few have been left at the mercy of God," he said.

After nearly three years of poor, rain pasture is scorched in the swathes of Samburu County, leaving animals and humans desperate.

Thousands of inhabitants in the arid area are enduring hard economic times due to drought and bandits' attacks.

The land in most parts of Samburu is rocky, shrubby and unsuitable for agriculture and most of the population rears livestock, herding animals on long journeys to find good pasture and water.

Samburu Governor Lati Lelelit appealed to the national government to intervene, saying the situation was getting out of hand.

"Samburu is experiencing the worst drought situation in 50 years, and the emergency relief food has been exhausted but we are putting in place more drought mitigation measures through our budget as we wait for more relief food from the national government," he said.