Turkana, situated in the North West of Kenya, is hot and dry. Temperatures rarely drop below the high 30s and the County receives on average about 7 inches of rain a year (Ireland receives between 50 and 80 inches depending on the location!). Bordering Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia, live is hard for the circa 1.2 million people who live here, 94% of whom survive on less than $1.25 a day. On every measure of human development, Turkana is at, or near the bottom of the Kenyan league table:
– Life Expectancy: 56.5 years (Kenya: 61 years)
– Access to clean, safe water: 41% (Kenya: 63%)
– Literacy Rate: 18% (Kenya 78%)
– Primary School Enrolment: 39% (Kenya: 70%)
– Under 5s Mortality Rate: 117 per 1,000 (Kenya: 49 per 1,000)
– HIV Prevalence: 7.6% (Kenya: 6%)
Nomadic pastoralism is the traditional way of life in Turkana with communities reliant on their animals (goats, cows and camels) for food and income. It is a tough existence made even tougher by climate change and the impact it is having on areas like Turkana. Since the start of the century, there have been 6 separate drought emergencies declared in Turkana, with communities unable to recover fully before the next one arrives. Coming only 2 years after the last drought, there is a feeling that 2017 could be the worst for quite some time.
According to reports from our local partner Caritas Lodwar, the only people left in some areas of the county are the elderly, women and young children, with men and boys having migrated hundreds of miles with their livestock into Uganda in search of pasture for their animals. Most riverbeds have dried up and with the exception of relief agency-sponsored boreholes, there is no water available in the most remote areas of the County. As a result, the average return distance to water has risen to 28km in some areas (the normal distance is 8km). Current assessments put 440,000 people as being in need of humanitarian food assistance.
Anne Cleary, Aidlink’s Executive Director, has just returned from Turkana where she was assessing the situation: “Having worked in Turkana for over 10 years, I can see that the current situation is not good. Conditions are really, really tough for local people. I spoke to a Turkana man who told me he had not seen more than an hour’s rain over the past 3 years. Visiting local primary schools, attendance is very low with children instead travelling vast distances with their families in search of water. For those who are in school, class finishes at lunch time because the children at going to dry river beds to dig for water with plastic cups. Crops are failing and animals are dying. Hundreds of thousands of people are facing serious hunger and malnutrition.”
Whilst officially, Turkana is not yet at the stage of famine, unlike neighbouring South Sudan, there are fears that the situation could reach those levels if the international community doesn’t move quickly to intervene.
It is for that reason that Aidlink is launching an emergency appeal and asking for your support. We are currently providing prescription food to thousands of children via local health centres, targeting those who are showing early signs of malnutrition and making sure that they are treated before it is too late. At the same time, we continue to implement our wider development programme, providing access to water and agricultural training for families on communal farms so that they can grow their own food to meet their everyday needs, now and in the future.
With your support, we can scale up our drought response and help more people in this time of crisis. To give to Aidlink’s emergency appeal, go to www.aidlink.ie/get-involved/how-to-donate and click “donate now”.
Thank you for your assistance.