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Kenya: Drought situation report from Marsabit, Chalbi and Laisamis district - May 2009

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Executive Summary

The world's climate is continuing to change at rates that are projected to be unprecedented in recent human history. The impacts of climate change are likely to be considerable in the Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs). ASALs are generally considered more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than more high potential areas, largely attributed to a low capacity to adapt to climate variability and change and lack of proper investments to enhance resilience of the communities in this fragile ecosystem. High levels of vulnerability and low adaptive capacity in the ASALs have been linked to factors such as a high reliance on natural resources, limited ability to adapt financially and institutionally, low per capita GDP and high poverty, and a lack of safety nets. The challenges for development are considerable, not least because the impacts are complex and highly uncertain. Another is the organizational changes that are needed to face the threat that climate change poses to development: climate change is inevitable, and it will add burdens to those who are already poor and vulnerable.

Northern Kenya appears to have some of the greatest burdens of climate change impacts, certainly availability of natural resources; it is a region with generally limited ability to cope and adapt. Drought is getting worse in Marsabit,Laisamis andChalbi to dangerous extremes. The poor pastoralists are already caught up in the devil of drought. The damage to the water reservoir is already felt and the poor are already suffering severe social and economic repercussions. Severe drought is already hitting the greater horn of Africa and the already poor and under-developed districts such as the worst three mentioned is walloped in agony due to terrible water and food shortages. This has put lives of over 120,000 people on the line. The pastoralists are on the brink of abandoning this age old practice due to the devastating climatic stress.

However, this situation presents a case for humanitarian action to address the imposing emergent needs of the affected populations. Building on the findings of earlier assessments, it presents further findings on the prevailing water and food situation in the the district. Accordingly, it avails refined recommendations for action, which primarily call for provision of water and food in light of the impeding emergency situation. The gloomy situation is aggravated by the sporadic rainfall during the last two consecutive rainy seasons and total failure of April (2009) long rains.

General Problems.

Following the total failure of the April rains in the region, hard-biting water (shortage) crises for both human and livestock is being faced. The situation is exacerbated by the sporadic rainfall for the last two consecutive seasons and breakdown of strategic boreholes in the three district. This is followed by intense heat in bare grasslands without canopy to provide shade, threatening food security for the populace. The boreholes had pump failures due to electrical problems, causing water crises. As a result, many livestock died on the way to the next water points situated 100Kms, which are already overgrazed and barren. However, this also caused serious congestion and overstretched the already severed sources thus abnormally exacerbating the watering period of animals. Those who trek from far (about 40Kms) to water point for domestic use spend an average of 3days at the site without getting the precious commodity. These sources are also experiencing unbearable pressure from the influx of human and livestock populations from the contiguous locations in search of the rare commodity, increasing the watering period for livestock beyond the normal period. These boreholes run for 24hours to provide water for the thirsty populace. Due to the increasing pressure, shoats and cattle now take water after 14days and 10days from the normal period of 3days and every second day respectively. This watering period is expected to escalate further and claim thousands of livestock since these boreholes are already experiencing frequent breakdowns.

In some areas, the situation has intensified to a life-threatening level. In others, normal livelihood activities have been utterly disrupted - schools were closed before normal closing time and will not be opened during the next school term. Though, all livestock species are calving, household food security level productivities have faced severe blow as livestock are not producing milk due to severe effect of the drought. Children under the age of 5, elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are facing high levels of malnutrition due to lack of milk and other food supplements. Families are not meeting their daily meals due to lack of water, hence causing serious malnutrition rate.