Have you ever wondered what it feels to be thirsty and not find a single drop of water for more than 12 hours? This is what school going children go through during drought in Turkana, a vast dry desert.
I’m writing this from Aidlink offices, looking through the window and seeing all the green nature with the drops of rain and wishing this could be shared with Turkana. But you can share your love!
Turkana County, in the North West of Kenya is home to slightly over a million people. The region is dry with the main source of water being drilling of boreholes which is a very expensive venture. Although Turkana is home to the largest desert lake, the water does not support the community’s livelihood because it is alkaline.
The Turkana community is a proud people who have kept their traditions for thousands of years which include nomadic pastoralism. This means they keep camels, cows, sheep and goats and move from place to place in search of water and pasture when their land gets drier and water pans dry up. About 50 years ago, the drought was experienced every 10 – 20 years, then 5 – 10, and now 2 – 3 years and in some instances annually.
In 2017, the region was so dry (with other 22 counties) that the Government declared it as a national disaster and for the next three years there has been no rain. At such times girls and women are more vulnerable. Families marry off their girls at a very young age in exchange for livestock. This livestock replenishes their herds lost during drought. The drought has forced communities to reconsider their priorities and suddenly education becomes a ‘luxury’ as families struggle to meet the basics for survival; water, food and shelter.
As a Project Coordinator, I manage the project that supports over ten thousand children in 17 Turkana primary schools. We do this through;
- Creating a child friendly learning environment in schools – provide school feeding programme, provide sanitation facilities, train teachers on gender pedagogy, Board of management on resource mobilization, management and development of gender responsive school plans
- Engaging with communities through community conversation’s to support education of their children
- Building the capacity of local organizations on child rights programming and lobby for policies that support education in arid regions
In the last two weeks, there has been heavy rain with flooding in Turkana County. And this morning I received the Floods Assessment and Response Report from officials in Turkana County. Loima Sub County where we work is reported to be the most affected. It has rained heavily in Moroto (Uganda) and Pokot (neighboring County to the south west) the result is that water is flowing into Loima. This is not all good. The rain is approximately 10 times above normal and has impacted heavily on lives and livelihoods;
- 9 people have lost their lives
- 1,426 households have lost their homes
- 6,273 livestock swept away
- 3,700 acres of irrigated agricultural lands along the River Turkwell are now submerged
- 9 out of 12 boreholes destroyed in Lodwar town alone ( this is water for human consumption)
- St Kevin’s Secondary school Lodwar submerged under 7 ft of water.
This week, children in primary schools are sitting for their state exam in preparation to transit to secondary school in the New Year. Exam papers arrived late to some schools (in some places not at all) and many children were not able to access their school to take their exams. They may have to re sit next year!
This comes at the end of a three year drought and the effects of flooding is putting overwhelming pressure on an already overstretched communities and local staff responding to the two twin evils in Turkana (Halloween spirit L).
I traveled to Dublin last week to support Aidlink for Turkana Concert planned for Saturday 2nd at the National Stadium. Dublin is an exciting place, and last Saturday I joined over 200 people from 12 choirs to sing Mic Christopher’s ‘Heyday’ on The Ray D’Arcy Show. I had never heard of the song and had to practice over four hours.
Tomorrow night I will join the choirs and artists again, and sing even louder for the people of Turkana.
Please join me – buy a ticket and support us to help over ten thousand children in Turkana to recover from the floods and to access an inclusive, equitable and quality education; an education that will change their lives, that of their families and communities for the better – for generations to come.
Thank you and hope to see you tomorrow !