Water is hope

It is only a matter of time before northern Kenya will look like Somalia, says Rev Francis, leader of TSM, an indigenous NGO determined to make an impact and give hope

"Everywhere – dead animals on the side of the road and plants and trees without a single green leaf."

This was the report of the TSM relief team on a recent visit to Wajir town.

"The ground water table is dropping and they are on the verge of disaster if the water dries out."

For communities in northeast Kenya, livestock is the pivot of life. This makes pasture and water invaluable resources.

The situation will become extremely dangerous if water is not restored to the ground – it is simply a matter of life or death.

People who depend on the dams and water pans are in trouble as well as those who rely on wells. The lack of both will usher in an unprecedented calamity.

It is only a matter of time before Wajir will look like Somalia.

Speaking to The Standard newspaper, Hassan Farah, the Lower North-Eastern Regional Commissioner, said, "Urban streets are now flooded with 'mad' persons who lost their livestock to persistent drought."

As in the past, families sought pasture in the neighbouring Eastern region, or further afield in south-eastern Ethiopia and Somalia itself. They were met with worse conditions forcing them back home with nothing.

People lost their entire herds, Mr Farah told The Standard in an interview at his office in Garissa done in the last week of July.

"As we are talking now none of the 118 water pans in Garissa County are holding water, even the Hullugho dam [last dam holding water here] is drying this week. It is virtually not holding water, but wet soil which people and animals are scavenging for water," said Mr Farah.

Unless we take action now to get more water to the people, livestock and vegetation and many more lives will be lost.

Wajir town, with a population of nearly 50,000, is littered with wells, yet at the moment, only a few are still reaching the water table.

What used to be large watering wells for hundreds of camels have few today; around 50-60 come in the evening after looking for food the rest of the day.

Elgan, the village chief in Lafaley, located 20km north of Wajir, showed a well that cannot be used for domestic purposes because animals have gotten sick and died after drinking water from it. This may be from contamination or because of an increased salt content as the amount of water decreases.

We observed in a village a half kilometre away how the community wells are deepening. It was taking the young girls 30 minutes to get 20 litres of water out of the well. This is three times as long as usual, because of how slowly the water trickles in. The water table is dropping below the depth of their well so this village is nearly out of water.

If adequate wells can be provided, then we shall have given hope and good news for people, livestock and farms in this drought. Water is hope.

Many of the existing wells here will need to be deepened or rehabilitated and new ones will need to be sunk and built right away to bring what people desperately need – water. The Kenya Government is commissioning some borehole projects but they are not adequate due to the magnitude of the need.

We must pitch in here to reach more who are in dire need but will not be covered in this attempt.

Already TSM plans on rehabilitating five and sinking three new boreholes in Wajir. This is informed by the success we had during the 2009 drought. Then, we helped sink a borehole in Wagberi area of Wajir and local people used it to their benefit and have vegetables in the heat of this drought!