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Give a helping hand for poor people

An assessment of the effects of drought in Turkana county

The season for the long rains annually expected around March to June has begun yet some parts of the country have received very little or no rain at all. 

With the ongoing drought that has hit Turkana county since March 2021, water has become dire across a number of areas in the county, with several water pans having dried up and the depth of traditional river wells increasing substantially. Pastures have also diminished leaving livestock species with poor body conditions. There has also been a notable increase in distances to water sources for households’ and livestock. 

Donkey owners draw water from dry river beds

As a result, APaD conducted a rapid assessment in some of the most affected areas within Turkana county. The team that involved the Community Development Officer, the Peace Building Officer and the MERL officer conducted a rapid assessment between 30th March and 1st April 2021.

The objectives of the assessment were to:

  1. To understand the scope and severity of the drought on donkeys
  2. To comprehend the impact on local communities and their donkeys and likely longer-term impact.
  3. To understand the current needs of people in the affected areas with regards water access and fodder/pasture. 

The team visited Lomekwi, Karungumure, Kao,Kaalem and Todonyang areas of Turkana North sub county, Nanam in Turkana West  and some of the most affected parts of Loima sub county including Lomil, Nasiger, Napeililim, Lorugum Namuruputh, Lobei, Ulukuse,Lokirima and Urum.

During the assessment, it was noted that donkeys are some of the livestock most affected as a result of the prevailing drought. More than 6,000 were affected in the three (3) sub counties with some of the communities reporting outbreaks of diseases including skin conditions.

Due to the pressure on the available water resources, donkeys are the last to be driven to the water points. In the process, some donkeys are reported to have sustained bruises due to the struggles with other livestock. The donkeys are emaciated with a poor body condition score. 

Most of the water pans in the areas visited are drying up with reports of donkeys stuck in the water pans as they access water. A case is that of Mr. Lobolia Philip-Chief Liwan Sub-location who reported that 23 Donkeys died in a water pan in Kaalem, in Turkana North as a result of mud that was left as water levels reduced. 

Donkeys trying to access water which was in the center of the pan got stuck and died of starvation and thirst in the process. The only water sources available in Nachukui in Turkana North are hand-dung wells whose water is dirty and do not provide adequate water for both domestic consumption and livestock.

Deaths of small stock (goats and sheep) as well as donkeys were reported in Nalemsekon area of Turkana North which is one of the most affected areas.

A carcass of a donkey after consuming pods of Julifora

Donkeys are covering extra-long distances to look for water and pasture which exposes them further to insecurity as recently reported along the cross-border areas. There are reported increase of deaths of donkeys due to the scarcity of water especially after consumption of Prosopis Juliflora shrubs. Some donkeys in Lomekwi and Nachukui travel for more than 10-20Kms to get access water from Lake Turkana.

Donkeys which used to graze near homesteads currently spend most of their time outside in the fields in search of grass and water, thus exposed to thefts including cross border raids which has increased in the area since the onset of the drought.

There is increased migration from Turkana North to other areas especially in Todonyang, in Turkana-Ethiopia border. In Lomekwi, Nachukui, Lowarengak, Kokuro in Turkana North, Sub County, some of the community members who previously sheltered donkeys are letting them graze especially at night as they believe sheltering them will lead to poor body condition as a result of scarce pasture and water.

There is reported increase in migration of affected communities that had settled in Kokuro and Todonyang towards Ugandan border in search of pasture and water. In Nanam, the situation is not as dry compared to previous years with most areas having received some rains towards the end of 2020. Some of the most affected areas include Lorus.

The prevailing water scarcity has also forced some communities to migrate towards the South Sudan borders. There is a reported increase of deaths of donkeys from impaction due to the scarcity of water especially after consumption of Prosopis Juliflora shrubs. More than 20 donkeys are reported to have died as a result of impaction between late last year and March this year.

Water pumps were also reported to have broken down in most of the areas visited, with notable crowding around the few pumps that were operational. There is scarce vegetation cover in most parts of the sub county due to prolonged dry spell. There were reported cases of deaths of small stock (shoats) in Namuruputh, Lorugum and parts of Lobei. Most of communities in Loima rely on available shallow wells which are almost dry with the communities having to dig deeper along the riverbeds.

Donkeys have to trek for 8 to 12 km to access water in some parts of the sub county including Lomil and Nakwapua in Loima sub county. Livestock diseases have also been reported to have increased and this has affected all livestock including donkeys. The donkeys are emaciated due to scarcity of pasture and having to walk long distances in search of water.

Donkeys trek in search of water in Turkana North

As a coping mechanism, the communities along the borders have begun migrations towards the Ugandan border where conflicts have been reported. Communities reported attacks from the neighboring communities such as Jie and Dodoth who often cross the border into areas around Urum and Lokipoto. A case in point is the theft of five (5) herds of cattle from a Turkana kraal at Lotirae, Loima on 28th March 2021.

Pastoralists in transit with their donkeys to look for greener pastures and water

The communities in Lokiriama/Lorengikipi and Loima wards reported that the County Directorate of Veterinary services conducted mass vaccination of small stock (goats and sheep) in the week of 16th to 20th March 2021.However, no donkeys were treated during the exercise that targeted shoats. 

Locust invasion was reported to have had adverse effects on the vegetative cover. Surveillance by the trained community scouts is ongoing with the reported possibility of another wave of invasion expected.

Effects of COVID-19 on the communities were reported especially since the pandemic had restricted movement of pastoralists across the borders and interaction amongst them hence increasing their vulnerability to drought.

The Turkana County Government has intervened in some of the most affected areas through provision of relief food for the communities meant to cushion residents from effects of COVID- 19 and drought in Turkana North and parts of Turkana East.

 World Food Program (WFP) and World Vision have partnered with the government to support provision and delivery of food items (white maize,rice,beans and cooking oil) to vulnerable households. The government has begun delivering water with water trucks to some areas.

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