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

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read - BY AL­LOYS MUSYOKA @k2­musyoka

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.

/ AL­LOYS MUSYOKA

Fa­tuma Dzuha pre­pares porridge for her fam­ily at Mwaruwesa vil­lage in Sam­buru-Ki­nango on Wed­nes­day last week

/ AL­LOYS MUSYOKA

Naomi Mutisya and uniden­ti­fied woman shows dried and tra­di­tion­ally pre­served meat at Chan­zohu vil­lage in Sam­buru-Ki­nango

/ AL­LOYS MUSYOKA

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

/ AL­LOYS MUSYOKA

Car­casses of cows at Chan­zohu vil­lage in Sam­buru due to drought

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