Climate change: Copenhagen to Kenya

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As world leaders discuss climate change in Copenhagen, millions of people in Kenya are suffering its effects with the latest drought.

In east Africa, rains used to fail around every ten years. Then it started happening every three to five years. Now, some people need aid every year as a result of the cumulative impacts of drought and increased poverty.

Kerro Huka (49) used to have 300 goats and sheep, but now has just 20. And his story is no different to the thousand villagers of Badana in north-eastern Kenya, who haven't seen rain in over a year. As a pastoralist, Kerro is dependent on his livestock for food and income. He said: "The drought used to come every three years and now it is every year. We are desperate, waiting for rain."

Desperate for water

The nearest water hole dried up six months ago and two attempts to dig bore holes found the water too salty and unfit for human consumption. All the inhabitants of Badana are totally reliant on food aid and water being trucked in.

Each household is given a 20 litre jerry can of water to last three days. Surrounding the village are the rotting carcasses of sheep, goats and cows.

Villagers use the limited amount of water they get for drinking and cooking, or to keep their animals alive. There is little left for cleaning and, in desperation, many have had to use unclean water.

Cholera outbreaks

As a result, there have been frequent outbreaks of diseases like cholera. Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers and community health workers are working with villagers in Badana to help them recognise symptoms and increase hygiene awareness to prevent suffering and death.

In September, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an appeal on behalf of the Kenya Red Cross, to assist nearly two million people affected by drought. The British Red Cross released £149,000 from its Disaster Fund to support the appeal.

As well as providing immediate relief by distributing food and water, the Red Cross is working with communities on longer-term strategies to halt the downward spiral from increasingly frequent droughts.

El Nino rains

In the village of Boji, the first rains this year fell just over a week ago and the difference is immediately obvious. Many here lost their livestock and carcasses are still visible in the new green grass. Although the first rains were initially a welcome relief, flash floods swept away some villagers' homes and the only road to the village became impassable.

Heavy rains brought about by El Nino, the recurrent phenomenon of major global weather and climate fluctuations, are expected to intensify in November and December, possibly extending into January. In a few parts of Kenya, El Nino rains have already arrived with devastating consequences - flooding has left communities isolated and contaminated clean water sources. The Red Cross is helping 5,000 households expected to be impacted by flooding in the next month.

By harnessing the El Nino rains, there is the potential to lift the burden of drought and the Kenya Red Cross is distributing seeds in areas expecting rainfall. However, for millions of people like Kerro, there is still no sign that rain will fall anytime soon and they continue to wait and hope.

More about the drought in Kenya

A donation from our Disaster Fund has been made in response to this crisis. Contributions to the Disaster Fund will not be used directly in response to this disaster, but will be used in response to other emergencies in the future.