Thousands face starvation in Tana River County

More than 165,000 Tana River County residents are staring starvation following the current drought conditions in the county.

The county has not received any meaningful rains for the last five months and crops have dried up, leaving more than half of the population famished, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says.

Tana River County Drought Information Officer Ismail Duale told a special County Steering Group (CSG) meeting at the NDMA offices in Hola town that urgent interventions are needed to save residents from starvation.

A report released during the meeting revealed that the county’s vegetation cover was way below the required percentage mark of 35 per cent, with the best being in the Tana Delta at 14.5 per cent.

At the same time, thousands of livestock farmers are migrating into the delta, and this could potentially spark off conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers fighting over the limited resources in the delta.

Areas of Bura, Bangale and Titila have had their pastures depleted as camels from Garissa are now competing to devour the few surviving leafy trees, Duale lamented.

He said residents were also cutting the only vegetative matter, the prosopis juliflora (mathenge) trees for charcoal business in order to survive thus worsening the situation.

The CSG also heard that more than 40,000 people were suffering from malnutrition, majority of them being children aged between six and 15 years.

The dry conditions have been blamed for the current cholera outbreak in parts of Tana North Sub County as they have also led to an acute water shortage, forcing residents to take contaminated water.

At least three people have reportedly died of suspected cholera while 18 others receiving treatment have already been confirmed to be suffering from the highly contagious disease.

Another 100 diarrhoea cases are still being investigated to ascertain whether they are positive for cholera, County Director of Medical Services Oscar Endekwa said in a telephone interview early Monday.

The Tana River County Government has pledged to purchase four water bowsers to carry out water trucking, but a slow procurement process and delayed funding for development activities have hindered their prompt delivery.

Source: Kenya News Agency