24 March 2006
In East Africa, there’s hope, but no guarantee, the long rains will come in April. The region has been in the grip of a drought for several years and millions of people are relying on emergency food aid to stay alive. The drought has taken a large toll on the livestock on which many communities depend for their livelihoods.
Hannah Crabtree is a researcher for the NGO ActionAid. She just finished touring the Mandera area of Kenya, near the Ethiopian / Somali border. She’s now in Burundi, near the Rwandan border. Crabtree told English to Africa’s Joe De Capua what she saw in Kenya’s Mandera region:
“I was up in Takaba, which is in the north of Kenya. It’s one of the worst affected areas of the drought and quite frankly it’s really shocking. I went on a two-day drive from Nairobi and what you saw all along the road were dead animals. Basically, you could smell the villages before you got to them because you could smell the carcasses of dead animals. It was really shocking. Dead animals were just littering all the sides of the road and people are absolutely desperate.”
Asked to further describe the condition of people in the region, Crabtree says, “Most of them have lost all their livestock. And this is what these people depend on. People’s camels have even died, the conditions are so bad. The land is completely arid and dry and they’ve just got nothing to eat, nothing to drink. They’re totally dependent on relief supplies of water and food.”
When the drought eventually ends, aid agencies will mostly likely be needed to help restock livestock.
In some parts of east Africa, various tensions arose among various herders competing for pastureland. However, the ActionAid spokesperson says, “There’s very little competition because there is no pastureland left.”
ActionAid and other organizations are rushing to build dams and reservoirs in the event the rains come in April. If they do, and in sufficient amounts, the water collected by the reservoirs could be used for several months.