Drought leaves thousands in Marsabit in need of food aid

Sunday July 21 2019

A pupil rolls a water jerrican in Ngurunit, Laisamis in Marsabit County on July 18, 2019. More than 95,000 residents of Marsabit are in need of food aid and water supply as the region suffers from severe drought. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Thousands of Marsabit residents are staring at starvation as water shortage intensifies following a severe drought.

According to a recent report by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), about 95,000 residents of Marsabit are in need of food assistance.

The report also noted that the distance to water sources increased significantly following the drying up of open sources that feed most locals.

A spot check by the Nation in parts of Laisamis Sub-County showed that several manyattas are relying on water trucking which does not come often.


The cost of water trucking is increased by the fact that the remote villages relying on the service get it only from Loglogo where there is sufficient fresh water.


Lack of a clear water supply schedule by the government and other organisations has left the drought stricken residents to go for days without a drink.

The situation has been worsened by the migration of livestock to Baragoi, leaving women and the elderly with no donkeys to ferry water for long distances.

In Lekuchula village in Laisamis, residents said they had not seen any water truck for the last one month.


Women have had to make a 14-kilometre trek to fetch a 20 litre jerrican of water each in Namarei where the nearest borehole is located.

“Because of the distance to the borehole, the women rise up as early as 3am and come back with 20 litres (each) in the evening. They cannot carry the water all the way and have to roll the jerrican on the ground. We also hire a tuk tuk which sells 20 litres of water at Sh50. But this is not sustainable,” Lekuchula Manyatta chair-man Letapa Nambere said.

According to Mr Ahmed Kura, the founder of Kenya Drylands Education Fund (KDEF), an NGO supporting education in the region, the water shortage is greatly affecting learning.


“Lekuchula village has been relying on a rock catchment for water but due to failed rains, the reservoirs are dry. Attempts to drill boreholes in the village have been unsuccessful because they do not yield water. This is why we have resorted to water trucking to assist the locals and neighbouring Guram Primary School,” Mr Kura said.

He said the organisation, through Vibrant Village Foundation and other partners, spends Sh25,000 to supply one school or a village with 12,500 litres of water.

“The situation is dire because the 12,500 litres of water can sustain Lekuchula manyattas for about a week-and-a-half with strict rationing. This means at least Sh50, 000 is needed every month to quench the thirst of 250 locals,” he explained.


Kenya Drylands Education Fund founder Ahmed Kura helps fill jerricans with water at Nahagan in Laisamis on July 19, 2019. The NGO is supplying water to residents using trucks. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Mr Joshua Nambere, a nurse at Namarei Health Centre, said an ongoing screening of children has shown that malnutrition is setting in.

“The malnutrition is largely due to water shortage,” he said.

Ms Ntito Nambere, a resident of Lekuchula, said they are not allowed to bathe or wash clothes in order to save water for drinking and cooking.

“I don’t remember the last time I had a bath. We only bathe when a water bowser arrives in the manyatta. Drinking is also controlled to ensure water is available for cooking,” she said.

In Nahagan village in Korr, about 60 kilometres off the Isiolo-Marsabit road, the earth dam and shallow wells feeding the manyattas have dried up.


The only donkey that was left in the village died of hunger last week.

Mr Gabriel Sori, a resident, said they have been using the murky water from Korr shallow wells, located nine kilometres away.

“The women spend the whole day to fetch 20 litres from Korr shallow wells be-cause of distance and decline in water levels. A man has to go down into the well to scoop the little water at the bottom,” Mr Sori said.

He said the worst hit by the drought are women, the old and children after live-stock relocated to Samburu County where there is sufficient pasture.

Mr Larachi Arboi said about 20 children have dropped out of Nahagan Nomadic Primary School due to the drought.

Mr Kura said about 30 villages around Korr, which rely on shallow wells, are in need of water trucking while several schools need the commodity to sustain feeding programmes.