WE ARE WAITING TO DIE - STARVING KINANGO RESIDENTS
A four-month drought has left the more than 200,000 residents of Kwale county starving and facing imminent death if the government does not intervene urgently to provide food and water
Carcasses of cattle and desperate faces of children, women and elderly people is the welcoming sight in Kinango, Kwale county. A four-month drought has left residents starving, as the government delays to provide food and water. The county has more than 200,000 starving residents, with hundreds of cattle reportedly dying every day.
At Mwaruwesa village in Samburu ward where the Star visited on Wednesday, we counted up to 20 carcasses of cattle after being welcomed by a foul smell. The presence of carcasses around homes poses a health hazard, but residents have nowhere to go.
The situation is devastating. Residents say they are waiting to die after their cattle, if the government does not intervene urgently.
Fatuma Dzeha, 50, said her family had gone for two days without food. Children were not spared, as they sat around us, forlorn figures within the compound. Hunger is written all over their faces.
“The porridge I’m making is for my family of 10 people to take in the afternoon. We don’t know when we will have the next meal because there is no food,” said Fatuma as she cooks porridge outside their house.
Areas affected include Kasemeni, Kinango, Ndavaya, Puma and Samburu-Chengoni in Kinango. Even as the county and national government claim to have been working out ways to help the starving citizens, Fatuma said they have not seen any inter- vention since July, when the drought started.
“There is no water around and so we are forced to drink the available dirty water at the drying water pans. The fresh water is 50km away and at a cost of Sh400 which we cannot afford,” she said. “Sometimes we take the entire day or two looking for water.”
About nine water pans around Chanzou and Mwaruvesa have dried up, leaving residents pleading with the government to provide water.
“A packet of maize flour goes for Sh110 at the nearest shop, 25km away. It is expensive because the charcoal business we have been relying on to get money for food is not working out,” she said.
Fatuma said they have been forced to go for months without bathing, let alone washing their clothes.
“We are asking the President and his government to intervene urgently to get us water and food. Children especially are most affected and are in danger of dying of hunger,” she said.
Her husband Hussein Dzeha said getting a meal for his family has become a big headache because of the drought.
“I have lost cattle due to lack of water and pasture. When relief food comes, it is distributed discriminatively. I want to tell the President that we are also Kenyans and we need him to intervene so our lives can be saved,” he said.
Jumaa Mbui, a resident at Mwaruvesa village says that if the drought persists, residents will follow since there is no food and water. “It will be unfortunate if we die because of hunger when we have a sitting government,” he said. Mbui said when hunger bites, they are forced to turn to certain trees for food, although some are poisonous. He said the area has not had rains for two years, noting that the last time the government supplied relief food was back in 2007.
“Children are walking about 20km on an empty stomach to go to school which is a big problem. Many remain at home,” he said.
About 20km from Mwaruvesa is Chanzohu village in Samburu ward, where 100 cattle, goats and sheep have died due to lack of water and pasture, One family has lost 20 cattle. Herder Chengo Mwachondo said the situation is worrying and that he fears losing his job since his boss may lose all his cattle to the drought.
“I have been doing this work for a long time, but I have never seen such drought in my life. There is no grass
AREAS AFFECTED INCLUDE KASEMENI, KINANGO, NDAVAYA, PUMA AND SAMBURUCHENGONI IN KINANGO
and water for cattle. Some of them died enroute to the drinking well and I left their carcasses on the way,” he said. “It’s a terrible situation for us in Kinango,” he added.
“I have witnessed over 100 cattle dying since the drought started. The owners have been forced to transfer their cattle to safe areas.”
Resident Naomi Mutisya said they have been forced to take the cattle to Galana and Kaloleni, where there is enough water and plenty of grass for them.
“We have more than 500 cattle and so we feared more would die, which is a very big loss to farmers,” she said. She said children are helping their parents to prepare charcoal since there is no money for school fees.
“As we are talking, we have pupils in the bush, helping their parents to cut trees and prepare charcoal for them to get food,” she said. “It is high time the government protects its people. You can imagine as women, we don’t bath and it is worse our husbands cannot provide our marital needs. We are worried our families will break.”
Breastfeeding mothers are also at the risk of spreading diseases to children since they stay for many days without bathing. They say the Health department should intervene.
Mwaruvesa resident Nadzua Jotto, 80, told the Star she had gone for two days without food, until on Wednesday when she took a cup of tea from a good neighbour. “I have about 10 grandchildren who are starving, but I have no food to give them. They are living at the mercy of God,” she said. The last time she saw relief food was 15 years ago, when Kinango MP Gonzi Rai was seeking votes to be elected. “We are asking Governor Salim Mvurya to also look after his people. We need food and water. We walk a long distance to get water. We are really suffering. We are forced to drink dirty water at the drying water pans since we have no options,” the elderly woman said.
Nyondo Mrisa, 70, said he has lost 10 goats with no hopes the government will compensate or help him. “Kinango people, we need government intervention for us not to die of hunger. The government is taking long to respond,” he said.
Kwale human rights network coordinator Gorge Jaramba said the plight is heartbreaking. “We have seen children, women and elders with no food, no water, and they are just waiting to die. We have national and county governments, which have not helped so far. It is a shame,” he said.
He said since food is a basic need, the government should play its role instead of waiting to respond to deaths of starving people.
“We are not in Somalia or DRC Congo or a war-torn country but a peaceful one. The government has the role of helping its citizens. The county should go to all areas affected and use all means, even if is getting well-wishers from abroad, for people to get food,” he said.
Jaramba said civil society groups have come together and started fundraising to help the starving residents. He said the areas where cattle have died should be frequented by health officials to ensure residents around are not affected since it is a health hazard in waiting.
“The county government should come up with policies of solving this issue once and for all. We also want the government to come up with a special fund to help farmers losing cattle due to drought,” he said. Kinango subcounty commissioner Moses Ivuto said the government is committed to help them.
“The government is planning to distribute relief food to residents at the weekend,’ he said.
Fatuma Dzuha prepares porridge for her family at Mwaruwesa village in Samburu-Kinango on Wednesday last week
Naomi Mutisya and unidentified woman shows dried and traditionally preserved meat at Chanzohu village in Samburu-Kinango
A resident rides a bicycle to look for water from Mwaruwesa to Samburu which is about 50 kilometers away after all water pans dried following a prolonged drought
Carcasses of cows at Chanzohu village in Samburu due to drought