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There is no one to rescue pastoralists as leaders campaign

OPINION
By Mohamed Guleid | November 24th 2021

A herd of cows in Tana River County.[Caroline Chebet, Standard]

The drought in Northern Kenya is getting out of hand as the pastoralist communities stare at death. When President Uhuru Kenyatta declared drought a national disaster in September this year, there was a sigh of relief because many thought help was underway. The president even ordered Treasury to release Sh2 billion from the consolidated fund to help pastoralists access water and pasture. But to date, these funds are still meandering through the channels of bureaucracy.

No money has reached the grassroots yet. There are reports that not only animals but also human beings are showing clear signs of malnutrition. If it does not rain in the next few days, we might start seeing people dying of thirst and starvation.

The consequences of the drought will certainly lead many to leave and abandon their livestock. While driving along the dusty and rough road between Wajir and Isiolo recently, I witnessed firsthand the challenges these pastoralists are undergoing. I saw young children and women along the road with plastic containers begging for water from the motorists. 

The number of people under duress is increasing daily. Even some of the people in towns of the frontier regions are also under stress. Take the example of Modogashe town that lies at the border of Isiolo and Garissa counties. The residents are forced to purchase water from  vendors at exorbitant prices.

The  impoverished people pay close to Sh500 per household to purchase water. The water vendors charge as much as Sh30,000 to supply 10,000 litres to livestock.

For large herd comprising camels and cows, 10,000 litres can only quench the thirst of part of the herd. Many pastoralists have already dropped from this economy to start looking for livelihood elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the political class, even those from the hardest hit regions who are supposed to lobby for more intervention from the government, are lazing and drinking cappuccino in fancy Nairobi hotels.

Majority of them are hanging around presidential candidates who seem not to have any feelings for the dire situation. The country is in an election mood and politicians don’t care about the plight of the pastoralists.

Even shocking photographs of the carcasses of animals do not seem to prick their conscience. The government ought to have paused all other ongoing projects to start focusing on the drought to ensure that no Kenyan dies because of lack of food.

But I guess this will never happen because the powers that be have never cared for these poor pastoralists. For the local elected leaders, I believe the blood of the pastoralists who are likely to perish due to the drought will be on their hands. The responsibility is squarely on them.

The sad part is all they seem to care about for now is just their reelection next year.

Some of them might not even be reelected because many of the voters would have moved to the neighbouring countries to escape the drought or would have just vanished to the urban areas to escape poverty and disaster awaiting them.

Mr Guleid is CEO, Frontier Counties Development Council.

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