No immediate relief expected in Kenya, CARE warns

Although rains have fallen in the northern and eastern part of Kenya, there is no immediate relief in sight for drought-stricken pastoralists, CARE warns. The much-awaited April rains still look likely to be poor.
The rains, the last in consecutive seasons of erratic or failed rains, mark Kenya's entry into its fourth year of drought. In the severely affected North Eastern Province, pastoralist families, the majority of the population, have lost their sole income source -- their cows are either dead or dying.

The children are also suffering. Rates of acute malnutrition have risen steeply in north-eastern Kenya to between 18 and 30 per cent, significantly higher than the World Health Organization threshold indicating a critical situation.

'On my recent trip to Kenya's Garissa District, I saw the terrible effect the drought is having on the children of pastoralist families,' said Karina Coates, a CARE Australia employee, who returned from Kenya this month. 'Children in the supplementary feeding centre I visited were severely malnourished, and some were also sick with malaria and other diseases.'

In Garissa, CARE is focusing on distributing food supplied by the World Food Programme and providing emergency water, through repairing and maintaining boreholes to keep running and distributing water in water tankers. The majority of people in the drought-affected areas of Kenya are relying on such humanitarian aid to survive.

'The most important thing now is to keep people alive until they are able to return to their pastoralist livelihoods,' said Mohammed Qazilbash, Senior Programme Manager for CARE's emergency response in Kenya. 'CARE aims to support people where they live, as their lack of other livelihood skills will result in them becoming destitute if they flee the drought for urban centres.'

Even if rainfall levels exceed expectations across the Horn of Africa, where more than 8 million people are suffering from drought, they are unlikely to reverse the cumulative effects of successive droughts in the region. As communities compete for scarce resources, tensions between communities are increasing. Poor infrastructure and limited access are also affecting current aid efforts.

'It's essential that we act now to meet people's immediate needs,' said Qazilbash. 'However, CARE is also committed to focusing on long-term solutions to this multifaceted crisis -- such as diversifying the livelihoods of pastoralists in non-drought periods.'

In Garissa District in Kenya, CARE is distributing food to 120,719 people at 75 sites. We are also distributing water to 12 sites and maintaining eight boreholes, with plans to maintain a further 24. In Somalia, CARE is assisting roughly 650,000 people with food. In Ethiopia, CARE is providing water to schools and health clinics, and water and supplementary food for livestock.

For interviews with Mohammed Qazilbash in Kenya or Karina Coates in Australia, please call Jessica Walker on 0419 567 777.