Families displaced by drought likely to face violence: Study - Daily Nation

Violence afflicts many Kenyans displaced by drought, study finds

Tuesday September 11 2018

dead animal due to drought. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI

A dead cow during a past drought in Mandera. FILE | NATION 

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Kenyans forced to relocate due to drought are far more likely to experience violence than are Kenyans generally, researchers reported on Monday.

A study carried out by the University of Utah and the University of Nairobi found that violence affected a "staggering" 43 per cent of survey respondents who reported being displaced because of drought.

By comparison, less than 13 per cent of Kenyans overall said they had been attacked outside their homes, the researchers noted.

The findings are thought to have global implications.

Academics have predicted that violent conflicts may become more frequent as climate change creates environmental stresses leading to large-scale population movements.

The Kenya study -- the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa -- appears to confirm those expectations. And that may in turn require policy responses on the part of Kenyan authorities, the study's lead author suggests.

"The treatment of these vulnerable populations is critically important," said study coordinator Andrew Linke, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah in the western United States.

"If they're viewed as hostile outsiders and they are attacked by long-term residents, that can make a bad problem worse. There's a risk that they could in turn hold hostilities based on their experience."

About 15 per cent of 1,400 Kenyans surveyed said they had been forced to move because of drought. And violence was commonly experienced among that segment of respondents.

"There are a lot of respondents who report these experiences," Prof Linke said. "It's not a fringe one or two percent of the population. We're talking about much larger shares of the population that we don't always understand in the States, sitting here behind our desks."

"Any agency or the Kenyan government would say, 'Of course we need to take care of people who are moving because of drought, but who's going to pay for it?'," Prof Linke added. "That's a fair response."

But, he cautioned, it is essential to identify the scope of the problem, which, Prof Linke said, "could be bigger than people think." "Understanding the problem is always the first step in finding a solution."

A set of 30 researchers from the University of Nairobi's Institute of Development Studies were divided into smaller teams that collected data in 175 randomly selected locations across Kenya in June and July of 2014.

Prof Linke and collaborators from several universities are currently conducting the same survey in the same areas to compare how issues may have changed over the past four years.