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Turkana and West Pokot residents starving, lose hundreds of livestock

By Joan Letting and Irissheel Shanzu | January 19th 2017
Philomena Elimo skillfully enters a well to fetch water at the bottom of it for her camels in Kerio, Turkana County. [Photo: Kevin Tunoi/standard]

Hundreds of livestock in Turkana County have died with thousands of people facing starvation as the drought intensifies.

The drought has left sheep, goats, donkeys and camels emaciated while others have been dropping dead as they struggle to access pasture.

With water pans, boreholes and rivers in the sun baked fields having dried up, most of the herders have been forced to move to Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan.

Joseph Ekiru, a resident of Lomil in Loima constituency said thousands of pastoralists have been forced to move into Uganda.

"The vegetation has fully dried up. The water pans, wells and rivers have all dried up. The pastoralists with their families have moved into Uganda. If proper measures are not put in place, we will all perish from hunger and thirst," said Mr Ekiru.

Gabriel Lokilae, a resident of Kaeris village in Turkana North said women and children have suffered a lot.

"The women and children have been the most affected. The children do not even get water to quench their thirst. Our women pray each morning hoping that it will rain soon and save the situation that might soon lead to deaths. It has not rained for over a year now and there are no hopes of rain any time soon," said Mr Lokilae.

Former Turkana Central MP Emmanuel Imana has called on the national government to declare drought a national disaster.

"In most parts of the county, the vegetation and water points have all dried up. The people do not have anything to eat anymore. The President and the county government should consider declaring drought in Turkana a national disaster, because our people are suffering," said Imana.

The residents are now calling on both levels of governments to save the situation before it goes out of hand. The worst hit areas are Kibish in Turkana North sub-county, Lomil in Loima and Lokipoto in Turkana West sub-county.

Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok has written to the national government urging them to assist in mitigation efforts.

In West Pokot, over 69 per cent of children are at risk of malnutrition as the drought situation in the area worsens.

According to the National Drought Management Authority report, the rise in malnutrition has been caused by reduced milk consumption levels coupled with lack of health outreach services.

"Also, the body condition of cattle and sheep is poor whereas that of goats and camels is fair hence there is need for livestock supplementation. Pasture condition is poor across all the livelihood zones," it states.

County Drought Coordinator Gabriel Mbogho said the situation is wanting and worsening as months goes by.

Pasture is completely depleted in areas along the pastoral and agro-pastoral zones such as Masol, Orwa, Kacheliba, Kapchok, Losam, Korpu, Kiwawa, Kasei and Alale.

Accessibility to pasture has also been hindered by the conflict along the Pokot-Marakwet-Turkana borders with incidents of cattle disease being recorded along the Pokot-Uganda border.

According to the report, 75 per cent of the livestock have migrated to Uganda with a number of cattle deaths being reported in Pokot North and Central.

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