Wednesday, May 31, 2006



Shaaban Ali Issack, a Kenyan Member of Parliament for Mandera East:

"I have seen people who had a thousand head of cattle who now have less than 20, and those 20 actually will die in the next one month, because we expect the rains after one and a half months. And those people are very devastated, there is a lot of human suffering on their faces, and actually, if the government does not attend to them, and other well-wishers, in good time, then I think we’ll have not also the livestock, but the people themselves. I’ve seen people actually on the verge of collapse and many malnourished babies at Mandera District Hospital.

"Last month we had five kids who were very severely malnourished. By the time they usually reach a dispensary, or by the time they get help, they’re already not OK. So by the time they reach here, we try to do everything, but end up losing them. And those are very severely malnourished, who got help when it was too late."


Most parts of the Horn of Africa are undergoing the worst drought for a generation, with the UN warning that up to 11 million people may be at risk of famine in Northern Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

Animal corpses lie scattered over the countryside in Northern Kenya. In some areas up to 90% of livestock are believed to have died. The bodies pose a major risk to health. Some NGOs are doing their best to try to dispose of the corpses but the task is daunting.Burning them is the best option. But there are just too many to deal with. Most of the cadavers lie in or near dried-up watercourses, prompting fears of an epidemic should the rains arrive before they can be destroyed.

Rains have failed for the last three seasons resulting in a severe shortage of water and grazing. Forecasters fear the forthcoming rains, due for mid-April, could also fail.Atleast they came and the situation is improving now.

The Member of Parliament for the region(Mandera East) says that if they do, it won’t just be animals dying.

At Mandera District Hospital, 50 children are being treated for the effects of malnutrition and starvation. Five died in February and doctors fear that tally will rise. Children with malnutrition are also usually discovered to be suffering from complications such as tuberculosis, malaria and organ failure.

Malnutrition can be caused by an unvaried diet, such as just maize or rice. Most of the children in the outlying villages around Mandera have eaten nothing but maize or rice for over a year.Aid workers have organized malnutrition assessment centres and food distribution points to try to combat the problem. But they are unable to reach those in remote districts.

The problem is thought to be even worse in neighbouring Somalia, where there is no government, and security concerns mean many aid workers cannot operate.

Water distribution points have been set up along the main roads in the area, with thousands of people reliant upon the regular deliveries. They congregate around the aid points and wait for the tankers to come.This can cause problems in itself. In one village on the aid route, delivery was delayed four days by a tanker breakdown. When the water eventually arrived, the parched animals drank too much, and went into shock. Over 375 goats died in 24 hours.Thankfully, these animals got their water today.

But how long they’ll be able to hold out, is anyone’s guess.