Residents of drought-stricken areas in the North Rift have resorted to eating livestock and wild fruit.
The worst hit are Tiaty sub-county in Baringo County, Turkana, and West Pokot counties. In Gulel in Tiaty, residents are feeding on camels and cows that are dying due to lack of water and pasture, putting their lives at risk.
“The situation is so bad. Locals are now feeding on meat from dead livestock because of lack of food,” an administrator who preferred anonymity told the Nation.
He cited a case in which residents fell sick after eating meat from a sick camel.
“We do not know where help will come from because the patients are yet to be attended to and there is no health facility in the remote area,” added the administrator.
Roads in the area are impassable, posing a challenge for victims trying to access Chemolingot Health Centre, which is more than 50km from Tiaty.
Other residents in the region have been forced to eat wild fruit, which they have to boil for hours to kill poison.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that major water sources have dried up in the region due to the persistent dry spell that is also threatening schools as children have migrated with their parents to neighbouring counties.
The neighbouring Baringo South, Baringo North and Mogotio sub-counties have not been spared either, with many people in need of food.
The situation has been worsened by rampant insecurity in some parts of the North Rift, including Kerio Valley, which has rendered residents paupers after all their livestock — their major source of livelihood, was taken by armed raiders.
Preparing farms for planting has also become difficult due to runaway insecurity, which has claimed lives in the past six months. According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) report, more than 24,000 families in Baringo County alone are food insecure.
Baringo County NDMA coordinator Bethwel Wafula said the worrying number of people affected by hunger in the county might have doubled since December last year.
Barwessa ward MCA Joseph Makilap said more than 700 cows had died in the past one month.
“We fear for the worst should the dry spell persist in the next one month. Locals here depend on livestock for their livelihood and they will soon be wiped out by lack of water and pasture. We appeal to the government to fast track the commercial offtake programme in the area because most cows are emaciated and cannot fetch good prices in the market,” said Mr Makilap.
Sigor MP Philip Rotino also asked the government to act fast and buy animals from farmers as residents had incurred losses after hundreds of their livestock perished. He said Masol ward is the worst hit, with residents migrating in search of pasture and water.
“The government should move in urgently and come up with possible measures to curb the situation before residents start losing lives,” said Mr Rotino.
Mr Luka Lomerikong, a resident, said children in the region had not reported to school due to lack of food. “Children who have attained school going age have not reported to school since they cannot walk long distances to school on empty stomachs,” he said.
Cases of malnutrition and stunted growth are on the increase in the region.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has since announced a new restocking scheme where the State will buy weak livestock from herders and slaughter the animals for the locals to consume.
The President, who spoke in Samburu County, ordered the resumption of school feeding programmes in drought-stricken areas as he announced a food for fees plan. He said that the government will supply food to schools to retain pupils. Schools will in turn deduct the cost of the food from the fees.
Report by Wycliff Kipsang, Florah Koech and Oscar Kakai.