TURKANA COUNTY, Kenya, Feb 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
A borehole dug by herders in a desperate attempt to survive
Kenya's last severe drought has been transformed into a lifeline
for thousands of children and animals as a new drought hits,
thanks to the addition of solar pumping and water storage.
The well has become an oasis in the impoverished drylands of
eastern Africa where charities say back-to-back droughts are
threatening the lives of millions of children.
Originally built to meet the needs of 12 herders and their
families, the upgraded borehole now provides water for thousands
of people and livestock living at the foot of Pelekech mountain
in Lokore region in Turkana County.
As a result, herders can bring home their livestock every
day to drink water, which they say is a blessing.
"It is usually a disaster when animals are taken miles away
from home in search of pasture and water because most of our
children depend on milk for survival - and if there is no milk,
it could mean death for them," said Jacinta Akiru, a 65-year-old
mother of five from Lokore.
The Kenya Red Cross Society last month predicted the number
of Kenyans without enough to eat would almost double by April to
2.4 million from 1.3 million, mainly in the country's north and
along the coast.
NOT RUN DRY
At first, after sinking the well, the herders' families drew
water by hand using a bucket and rope, and could only fetch
enough for their immediate domestic needs.
"When we started this project, it was in a desperate move
just to see if we could find some little water for domestic
consumption," said Angeline Namudang, the treasurer for Lokore
Community Disaster Management Committee, the group which sunk
The herders used to spend weeks or even months away from
home in drought periods, looking for water and pasture. They
often returned to find their children, left behind with
relatives, were malnourished or even dead.
That changed when a solar pump and water tanks were
installed in 2013, with the help of international NGO
Veterinaires Sans Frontieres Germany.
The well now supplies water kiosks and animal drinking
troughs in two villages.
"This has been like a revolution to us," said Lotit Agirai,
who has six wives and 30 children.
"Having access to water for domestic animals closer to home
is the best thing that has happened to me," said Agirai, now in
He used to trek with herds of livestock more than 30
kilometres across the border to Uganda's Karamoja area in search
of water and pasture.
So far, 625 households are using the water facility. Each
household has on average seven members, and about 150 animals,
including goats, sheep, camels and donkeys.
Households pay 300 Kenyan shillings ($3) a month for water -
100 Kenyan shillings ($1) for domestic use, and 200 Kenyan
shillings ($2) for animal access.
The money pays for maintenance and two watchmen to guard the
facility day and night.
The borehole has never gone dry, and is still producing
water during the ongoing drought which meteorologists say is the
worst since 2011.
Access to safe water means fewer cases of waterborne
diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid, especially
during drought conditions, said Purity Ndubi, the nurse in
charge of Waso dispensary in Isiolo County in northern Kenya -
another arid part of the country.
"We always have a spike of these cases during droughts," she
told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The same happens to livestock, according to Johnson Wamalwa,
the chief livestock officer in Turkana West sub-county.
"During such periods, many animals from different places
share the same drinking points, which makes it easy for
infectious diseases to spread," he said.
Thousands of domestic animals have already died in the
country's north because of drought-related diseases, fatigue
from trekking long distances, and lack of pasture.
Between December and January, more than 6,000 goats and
sheep died of goat plague in Laisamis sub-county in northern
Kenya's Marsabit County, according to Michael Baariu, a local
The plague is a highly contagious viral disease, and often
fatal to sheep and goats.
However, the residents of Lokore are at peace. None of their
livestock have died since the onset of the drought in mid-2016.
"We are also optimistic that our children will remain
healthy till the end of the drought season," said Akiru.
($1 = 103.7000 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by Isaiah Esipisu; Editing by Alex Whiting.; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change,
resilience, women's rights, trafficking and property rights.