Mandera residents move to Ethiopia in search of water

A boy walks along a dry seasonal dam in Banisa, Mandera County, March 15, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Locals in Mandera County's Lafey constituency are facing death and starvation after the only reliable water sources dried up.

Residents of Waranqara ward are now forced to trek for kilometres across the border into Ethiopia to quench their thirst and obtain some for domestic use.

They are now bracing for the worst if the March-April rains fail. This comes after two boreholes and two water pans dried up due to the prolonged drought, threatening the pastoralist villages of Bambo and Kheira.

"Even after reaching the borehole while traversing valleys and hills throughout the night, we have to queue for hours waiting to collect the water.

"By the time I get home, it's already 8am, and my daughter is worried about being late for school," said Halima Hassan, a mother of two.

According to Abdullahi Ibrahim, the local MCA, more than 15,000 people have crossed into Somalia and Ethiopia in search of water and pasture for their livestock.

"Of the 15,000 households, some of the parents who moved to Somalia and Ethiopia with their children, leaving them out of school, could not sustain them in Waranqara," Ibrahim said.

The MCA is worried that the drought has reached an alarming level.

"Most wells and dams have dried up. Close to 25,000 people in my area are at risk of starvation. The situation will be worse if it won't rain in the coming weeks." 

Gabow Ahmed, an elder at Gari Hills town, says women, children and the elderly are the most affected. "We witness our women trekking over long distances with children on their backs in search of water," said Ahmed.

For decades, women and girls in Waranqara, a sweltering, water-scarce hamlet, have been trekking daily for long distances along insecure routes in search of water.

On a good day, they get water from water bowsers but at an exorbitant price of Sh15,000. Lack of access to safe and affordable water is among the major constraints to improving the livelihoods of pastoral communities in Mandera county.

The nearest accessible water point from Waranqara is about 47km away in Rhamo.