Time is running out: drought across horn of Africa

Wednesday 17 July 2019

In the hilly desert terrains at Nabuskaal region in Turkana Northern Kenya, an outreach for health services has been convened for the community. The outreach that is done three times every month is an initiative to ensure that families that live far from health facilities can access health services. In Turkana County it is at least 30 KMS to the nearest health facility.  Atirr, Ero Kwee, 42, arrives for the services and takes a moment to find shade under a tree. She had walked for 7KM from her home with her 4 year old son.

Atirr, Ero Kwee, 42, at the nutrition outreach in Nabuskaal region in Turkana.

The outreaches organized by the County Ministry of Health and Save the Children offer screening for malnutrition for children, pregnant and breastfeeding women; including treatment and follow up medical visits for children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM). The community also receives treatment for the common diseases like pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, eye and skin infections and child immunizations.

“We reach around 100 households on these outreaches and many of those who come are women and children,” said Joel Lochor the Sub County Ministry of Health. The community also receives commodities like Plumpy'Nut- a peanut-based ready to eat therapeutic paste used for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, and satches of water purifier agents used for water treatment.

Kenya’s long rains – which typically fall between March to May – failed in most parts of the country. Some regions have now experienced the failure of three rainy seasons in a row. The mid-season food security assessment report that was released in March 2019 indicated that 54, 000 children under five years in Turkana county require treatment for acute malnutrition.


Drought Effects

During the nutrition screening Kwee’s son, Akwanger Naurien, scored a yellow color on the MUAC tape an indication that the child is at risk for acute malnutrition and that he should be counselled and followed-up for Growth Promotion and Monitoring (GPM). She said that the drought has affected her herd size and the distance she walks to get water. Last year she said that she had 10 goats and is only remaining with two who are sickly and have not yet succumbed to the harsh conditions. Before the drought she used to get water at a health facility near her home but she says that the water turned saline and now resolved to dig shallow wells at the river bed to get water. She uses the water purifier she gets during the outreach to sanitize the water.

“ Children are not getting enough food, and families do not have enough money and that is why children are not getting enough meals leading to malnutrition,” Bernard Ekidor, Food, Security and Livelihood Officer.

“The changes in Kenya’s rainfall patterns have been linked to climate change. Research shows that rainfall is reducing while temperature is on the increase with time over Kenya, as is the case in other countries in the Great Horn of Africa,” said Moses Emalu Country Operations and Humanitarian Coordinator.

Save the Children is one of the few organizations operating in the ASALs focused on children, delivering life-saving interventions and building individual and community resilience to these chronic emergencies. This year Save the Children has responded to the drought through the following interventions:

  •   Nutrition screening for children for Malnutrition, and treating children with SAM and MAM with supplementary feeding/outpatient therapeutic programme.
  •   Providing water tanks in schools
  • Supporting water trucks that take water to schools and health facilities
  •   Rehabilitation of water points in Turkana to provide clean water to the community 

Atirr, Ero Kwee, 42, at the nutrition outreach in Nabuskaal region in Turkana.