Save the pupils in ASALs from the dangers of harsh weather conditions

A boy walks in a field of carcases of this father's animals in Ijara, Garissa County. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) are known for the variable environmental conditions that result in periodic drought, hard-hit famine, floods, animal disease outbreaks, and social instability due to conflict and historical marginalisation. The ASALS make up 89 per cent of the country with approximately 38 per cent of Kenya's population.

Many learners from arid and semi-arid areas go to school every day in unsafe learning environments, with no drinking water, food, no proper toilets and no soap for washing their hands. This has brought a lot of health risks to these pupils as they can't concentrate well on their studies while some end up contracting diseases that are caused by lack of proper hygiene.

Nevertheless, some learners are forced to trek kilometres to look for schools which are few and scattered. These long journeys are always tiresome. The pupils do find it very uncomfortable to cope with learning. At times some are attacked while on their way to school by the bandits.

According to UNICEF, climate change is a threat to children's right to safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities. About half the global population is expected to be living in water-stressed conditions by 2030. Competition for water resources will intensify with increasing urbanisation, population growth and the threat of climate change. Therefore, this means that children who are already facing deadly effects of drought including acute hunger, malnutrition and thirst will suffer more, as water constraints deepen.

Hygiene facilities

Data from the latest report: "Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools 2000-2022" show 803 million children worldwide lack basic hygiene facilities at their schools. Similarly, globally, 29 per cent of schools do not have access to basic drinking water. This makes about 600 million children, who are water starved. Most of these children live in the least developed countries, including Kenya.

Climate change has had a devastating impact on learners from these areas. There are various steps that can be taken to combat the adverse effects of climate change in these had-hit famine areas which has affected learning. Food security and climate resilience are critical issues in today's world as the impacts of climate change seriously affect food production by causing crop failures in arid and semi-arid lands.

Various techniques that help in maintaining soil health, soil erosion and water conservation such as the use of conservation tillage, and cover crops can be practised. Building model farms across all the ASALS to ensure food security in the hard-hit famine regions is another welcomed solution.