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Much of this work was originally produced for UNICEF

Coping with drought

I met Idhila Mohammed, mother of 6, on the road near Bangale. Her large family had split into 3 groups to search for water and pasture. “We had 180 cattle last year but since the drought only 40 are left.”

The cost of watering the animals kept rising while the selling price of livestock had plummeted. The pans were drying up fast and many, like the pan closest to Bangale town was no longer open to livestock. The nomadic families often had to choose between seeking water or seeking pasture for their animals - because pasture around the watering points was mostly used up.

Once the pans were exhausted people had to rely on expensive tankers to deliver water. In 2006, Garissa had only 6 water bowsers to cover the district and 5,000 people in need. Some deliveries involved a 280kms round trip. Tankers were sometimes hi-jacked en-route by communities demanding to be served first. On the day I visited, 2 tankers were out of service and a third had broken down en route.

Boreholes/pumps at permanent water sources were also working constantly – 24 hours a day with no cooling off time. There were 25 pumps in the district and only one rapid response team with one vehicle to keep them all running. The team lacked some of the equipment needed for repairs. The district had provided 400 litres of fuel to every borehole to enable free water distribution. This supply lasted about 10 days. Another 600 litres per borehole was ready for delivery but the fuel tanker had broken down and supplies were running short.

UNICEF aimed to build the capacity of the government to be able to respond during emergencies, but with so many pressures it was often essential to step in with emergency supplies and support to provide water, support health and nutrition services, keep children in school and ensure protection for the most vulnerable children and families.

Top: Idhilla Mohamed and her six-month old son.

Middle: The pan at Bangale, Tana River Province. The water level is now so low that all the remaining water is reserved for humans. Livestock must be taken elsewhere.

Bottom: Sarah pulls her two-month old baby from his bed on the back of a donkey, The family has moved  four times in the past month searching for water.