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Scores starve as famine ravages North Horr amid denial by authorities

By Ali Abdi | January 17th 2017
Goats and sheep looking for grass on bare ground at Balesa trading centre, in North Horr, Marsabit County. Livestock have died in large numbers due to lack of pasture and water. Photo By ALI ABDI/STANDARD.

Elema Adhe, 70, is carried by a friend to rest under the shade of the only tree in the village and which is almost swallowed by sand dunes.

Adhe, whose five children are all away, has taken strong tea for breakfast and does not know when his next meal will come.

Together with his wife, they have six kilogrammes of dry maize they received as relief food. However, even then, Adhe cannot eat it.

“I need milk and soft food which I cannot afford. I vomit when I take maize. I feel very weak,” he said.

The old man is among hundreds of starving villagers in Barambate in Galas, North Horr ward who have been hit hard by devastating drought that has swept across Chalbi Desert.

In a meeting with NGOs and representatives of both national and county governments, villagers said four people — two men and two women — died last month due to hunger and dozens more are too weak and on the verge of death if help does not come.

Bone Chachu, a local woman leader, said those who died were all elderly people. “They included my friend mama Diro,” she said.

“Drought has hit the village hard and we have not received any help so far. The elderly, lactating and pregnant women and young children cannot survive on dry maize, the only food we have now,” said Chachu.

affected families

Galas chief Mata Sora said while affected families do not report the deaths formally, it is possible people may have died from hunger.

“The situation is very bad as most households do not have food. I have not received reports of hunger-related deaths but it is possible (someone has died due to hunger),” said Sora.

He said the elderly, lactating and pregnant women and children under five years, are the most affected. “Children have been hit by malnutrition. We require milk, unimix and other nutritious forms of food to save the situation,” said Mr Sora.

He added: “I appeal to stakeholders to urgently intervene and help people in this region as they have lost 80 per cent of their animals to drought,” said the administrator during a meeting with officials of Marsabit-based NGOs.

However, North Horr Ward administrator Guyo Hursa, while admitting the drought situation has reached an emergency level insisted no one has died as result of hunger.

“You have to be sure how the four people died. It is alarming to say they died as result of hunger as no one knows. Have the villagers reported to the chief?” posed Hursa while speaking at Baranbate.

drought assessment

An umbrella body of local NGOs, Marsabit Indigenous Organisations Network (Mio-Net), together with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently carried out a drought assessment in Saku, Laisamis, North Horr and Moyale whose findings they will use to appeal to national and international organisations to help address famine.

Malnutrition is also widespread in Marsabit with North Horr sub-county being the hardest hit.

According to Pastoralist Community Initiative and Development Assistance (Pacida), one of the NGOs under Mio-Net, children under the age of five, lactating mothers and the elderly are the most affected.

Pacida director Wario Guyo cited Qorqa, Dololo-Adhe, Baranbate, Balesa, Kargi in Laisamis as among areas that require urgent relief food.

At Balesa, 74-year-old Sori Mochi who lost all his livestock to drought cannot eat solid food. The Standard found him resting in his hut with a cup of water by the bedside.

“I am very hungry but I cannot eat. I need milk but it is not available. Water is the only thing I can drink for now,” said Mochi.

His younger brother Wako has also lost all his livestock. The father of seven is malnourished and his family relies on neighbours for food.

Local elders took us to five other huts where we witnessed the agony of breastfeeding mothers and children faced with starvation.

Mio-Net members distributed relief food, including milk, maize flour, beans and cooking oil to 2,500 households in North Horr.

dispatching lorries

The county government also stepped in by dispatching lorries of dry maize, beans and cooking oil to affected families from Saturday.

Mio-Net manager Mamo Abudo said the situation in North Horr is critical and called on all stakeholders to urgently intervene.

Residents called on the county government and the Constituency Development Fund to use its emergency fund to help them.

“There is budget for livestock and emergency fund but we are yet to receive any help. We cannot even afford diesel for this borehole,” said Jarso Ibrae, a herder at Arilo borehole.

The NGOs said the survey they jointly carried out showed that the situation is also bad in Sololo, Moyale, Laisamis and parts of Saku where pasture has been exhausted and water points have dried up.

“The livestock cannot survive the situation in the next two weeks. Some herders have started migrating towards Isiolo in search of pasture and water,” said Abudo.

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