In the Ewaso Ngiro river basin, central Kenya, families have begun digging in the dry riverbed for water. If the arid weather continues, many fear they’ll have to begin destocking their cattle. For now, the only way to get water is to sink shallow wells into the river bed and scoop out filthy, muddied groundwater using whatever is to hand, and then carry it home by donkey cart.

It is exhausting work, and leaves little energy for much else, but it’s a job that Hawo Holale and Hawo Racho have to undertake every two days. They lug the water back the four kilometres their village, Garfarsa, in yellow 20-litre containers and their haul must meet all their needs: drinking water for both people and animals, cooking and washing.

When one shallow well dries up, the men in the village will set about digging another.

The only alternative – buying 20 litres of water for 30 shillings – is not an option.

Everyone agrees the next rains due about now are vital, but they also know that the latest forecasts predict lower than normal rainfall in most of the country.

The Kenya Red Cross Society warned last week that the number of people in need of food assistance in drought affected areas has reached 3 million nationwide, while the government says the figure could climb to 4 million in the next few weeks.

The National Society and the IFRC also announced they have increased their appeal to $US25 from US$9m and are now seeking to assist just over a million people.

Dr Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society, said the situation is getting worse every day. “Malnutrition rates among children are steadily climbing. Children are getting sick, and livelihoods of families have been decimated following the loss of thousands of their livestock,” he said. “It is more and more difficult for people to access water – people are having to travel for up to three times as long just to get water for their family. This is an emergency that will not improve without help.”
Photos: Denis Onyodi / Kenya Red Cross Society

Hunger in East and Central Africa

Millions of people in East and Central Africa are facing a severe food crisis. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is responding to bring life-saving support to the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities.

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