Living on the edge in Kenya's Turkana region

NAIROBI, 27 January 2012 (IRIN) - The 850,000 residents of northwestern Kenya's vast and parched Turkana region face some of the most inhospitable living conditions on Earth.

On their own, meagre average annual rainfall of between 300mm and 400mm and frequent droughts pose surmountable challenges. In the past, the predominantly livestock-raising population was able to travel far to find browse and water; a sustainable, cyclical livelihood.

However, access to such greener pastures is now curtailed by agricultural development, out-of-bounds national parks, and the prevalence of small arms in the wider region.

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AccordingThere is little to fall back on. Infrastructure - roads, electricity, water supplies, schools, sanitation facilities, health centres, communications, social services and media access - are at best inadequate, if not virtually absent. Political clout is negligible. Poverty levels are at least 20 percent greater than the national average.

Insecurity, nomadism, and the sheer vastness of the remote region - it covers some 70,000 sqkm - have greatly limited intervention by government agencies and international partners.

All these factors contributed to malnutrition rates that topped 37 percent in some areas during the extreme drought of 2011. Food insecurity is permanent; many in Turkana have depended on food aid since before Kenya gained independence in 1963.

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