Viewing entries tagged
Drought

In the wilderness

The Hurri Hills of Kenya, north of Marsabit and across the Chalbi desert, seemed to be the remotest place on Earth. I hadn’t seen tarmac for days, and small, rocky tracks stretched across the plains and wound their way through the hills.

Small communities live nestled in these hills, miles from anywhere. They draw what scarce water there is, where they can. And that water is becoming increasingly scarce with the drought affecting the Horn. They walk with their cattle across the vast plains, in search of pasture. It is rare that they see outsiders in these parts.

Borders mean little up here. An ageing man in one village I visited told me “our nearest water is the other side of those hills”, pointing towards the horizon. The other side of those hills is Ethiopia, a journey they would make daily. The nearest market, a source of produce as well as an outlet for their goats, was also in Ethiopia. No-one holds a passport.

Sacrificing the Lambs

Remaining on the subject of the Horn of Africa drought, I spent yesterday on the road, driving up to Marsabit in northern Kenya. Road investment has got as far as Isiolo, with smooth, tarmac roads. But from then on, things get rough.

Little seems to reach here, and when it does, it is expensive. Kenya has seen massive fuel increases this year, not least due to the conflict in Libya.

Many people here rely on their livestock to live, even more so now that many crops have died due to the drought; animals are more resilient than crops. But many are wavering, skeletons with skin seem to wander much of the landscape.

Prices of these animals has hit rock-bottom in the markets. Nobody wants to buy them, and nobody can keep them. There is not enough feed, not enough water. People cannot afford the meat.

To try and help these communities, an international aid group is working here to provide a solution. As well as helping to keep livestocks healthy, they are also buying off-take of sheep and goats. The owners receive money for the animal, as well as a third of the meat for their family. The remaining two-thirds are divided amongst other families in the community.

This is a short-term solution to the problem, and the money from a goat may keep the rest of the herd alive for another week or two. But it is by keeping those herds alive long enough until the rains come that offers the best chance of survival for the people living here. Their animals are all they have.

Nairobi's Urban Food Crisis

Nairobi’s Urban Food Crisis 

 There is food in the markets, but people can’t afford it. 

 The  drought  that has been hitting the headlines in the Horn of Africa is not just limited to the arid scrublands of Somalia and northern Kenya. In the slums of Nairobi, the drought has contributed to an increase of food and fuel prices, meaning that people are going hungry whilst the shops next to their shanty houses are stocked with goods. 

 Milicent, above, is sixteen months old, and was suffering from malnutrition. Her mother, Rosemary, noticed that she was not putting on weight, and sought help from an aid group working in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum, where they both live. 

 “Sometime we eat just once a day”, says Rosemary, who describes the food prices right now as very high. Milicent is one of five children, and a typical meal is  ugali , a Kenyan staple made from mixing maize flour and water. To feed her children, Rosemary will sometimes have to skip a meal herself, drinking just a cup of tea. 

 Her husband is a casual labourer, and with irregular work, the family has problems affording enough food for the family. They moved to Nairobi two years ago from the country in search of work. “Life is much harder in the city, if there is no work you won’t eat” Rosemary says.

Nairobi’s Urban Food Crisis

There is food in the markets, but people can’t afford it.

The drought that has been hitting the headlines in the Horn of Africa is not just limited to the arid scrublands of Somalia and northern Kenya. In the slums of Nairobi, the drought has contributed to an increase of food and fuel prices, meaning that people are going hungry whilst the shops next to their shanty houses are stocked with goods.

Milicent, above, is sixteen months old, and was suffering from malnutrition. Her mother, Rosemary, noticed that she was not putting on weight, and sought help from an aid group working in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum, where they both live.

“Sometime we eat just once a day”, says Rosemary, who describes the food prices right now as very high. Milicent is one of five children, and a typical meal is ugali, a Kenyan staple made from mixing maize flour and water. To feed her children, Rosemary will sometimes have to skip a meal herself, drinking just a cup of tea.

Her husband is a casual labourer, and with irregular work, the family has problems affording enough food for the family. They moved to Nairobi two years ago from the country in search of work. “Life is much harder in the city, if there is no work you won’t eat” Rosemary says.

A Day-Trip to Dhobley, Somalia

I haven’t been back to Europe for nearly two years. A few days before I was due to fly back to England I was asked if I could go to Somalia, for a day trip just over the Kenyan border. “Sure”, I said, “when is it?” I was keen to see as much of Somalia as I could, and I had failed to reach the other side of the border when Chemi and I drove up a few weeks previously.

“The eleventh” came the reply.

“Euh, that’s the day I’m flying back to London.”

“What time is the flight?” asked my editor.

“Not ‘til the evening” I replied.

“It’ll be fine. You’ll be back by the evening. Can you go?”

And so, with a bag packed for five weeks in the UK and in France, I drove to Wilson airport at some un-Godly hour of the morning, and boarded a small charter plane for a visit by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation to Dhobley.

We did our work, I became a convert to the idea of giving money to cattle rather than people - preventing their deaths would save many more lives and is more cost-effective, they tell me - and then flew back to Nairobi. An hour spent in traffic, a spot of writing and editing the pictures, and I just about had time to take a shower before jumping in another taxi for the airport.

The following day, I would be in London, a world away from the conflict and famine of Somalia, and trying to explain everything I have seen over the last two years.

Fleeing Drought

Hassan Ali has a canteen of water slung over one shoulder, in his right hand he holds a walking stick, and in his left, a blackened kettle. A scarf is draped over his head to protect him from the midday sun, he stands in thin, cracked flip-flops, and wears a blue, short-sleeved shirt over polo-shirt, with a Somali wrap-around skirt around his waist. This is all he has left.

With the sun beating over-head, he pours a little water from his kettle over his feet to wash them, ablutions before the dhuhr (noon) prayers.

Hassan is forty-two years old, and fifteen days ago he left his home in Dinsour, Somalia, his livelihood destroyed by the drought that has ravaged Somalia. Two kilometres behind him stands the Somali-Kenyan border, and ahead of him lies the Dadaab refugee complex - the largest refugee camp in the world.

This is where Hassan and his five compatriots are heading. Hassan’s wife and children left Dinsour for Dadaab several weeks previously, whilst he stayed on to try and struggle through the drought, to save his home and land. Now he is walking to join them, a small family amongst 380,000 refugees.

When he arrives, Hassan will register with the camp authorities, and try to locate his family. The camp is already several times over capacity, and it can take days to register, and weeks to receive a refugee—and therefore ration—card.

But before he can do that, Hassan has over one hundred kilometres across the hot sands ahead of him, with little respite. The few, small villages en-route are themselves suffering from the drought, and have already seen so many refugees heading to Dadaab.