Thousands risk starvation in Mandera county
The pangs of prolonged drought in Mandera have put more than 500,000 people in desperate need of food aid.
Short rains assessment report by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), Mandera branch, released at the end of February, shows the population in urgent need of relief food surged to approximately 550,000.
The residents’ suffering has been exacerbated by the loss of their livestock, which is their sole source of livelihood.
Omar Jilo village in Arabia sub-county is one of the hardest-hit. According to the report, hundreds of families in the border village are parched and famished, which has forced them to flee with their remaining emaciated livestock to neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia countries that have similarly been ravaged by drought.
Residents say the situation is getting dire every passing day, and with no humanitarian intervention forthcoming from the relevant agencies, human lives are now at stake.
Mohamud Abdi Diis, a local politician, said more than 8,000 people are languishing in abject starvation in their Manyattas in most villages in Arabia sub-county after the prolonged drought swept away their livestock. “The hardest-hit people are the elderly, women, children and persons living with disabilities. These are the most vulnerable people since they couldn’t move out of their villages with other family members,” he said.
Abdi notes that urgent intervention is needed before the situation gets out of hand.“The situation is now catastrophic. It is at an emergency level. Water pans have dried and livestock died. Children and lactating mothers are badly malnourished. It is either now or never,” he added.
Residents accused area MCA Daud Sheik Ali of abandoning them instead of mobilising resources from government and humanitarian agencies to save lives.
“Our MCA rarely visit us to witness the threats starvation is posing to our lives. He is busy lobbying for allowances at the Assembly instead of presenting our predicament in the House,” an elder lamented.
“During campaigns, he was walking around the villages on foot, but now he is no longer accessible to us,” they lamented. “His security chases us away whenever we trace him to his house to present our suffering,” another elder added.
Another elder, Issack from Omar Jilo, who gave only his first name for fear of victimisation said the water supplied by Action Against Hunger, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), is meddled by the politician’s friends who segregate drought victims by favouring close relatives. “Some drought victims are denied access to the water tank,” the elder noted.
Sareeda Maalim Ali, a mother of 10, says she is forced to walk over seven kilometres every morning to fetch water from the nearest source run by the NGO, however, most time she returns home without the commodity due to frustration by those given the responsibility to guard the water.
“It is tiresome and dangerous for women who are pregnant to walk such long distances only to return home with empty jerrycan,” she said while breast feeding her lastborn baby under a dry acacia tree.
Contacted, Arabia Ward MCA Daud Sheik Ali’s phone went unanswered several times then switched off.
Ali Hussein said he lost over 50 cows to the drought in the last few days alone, which has made him unable to provide for his family.
The ravaging drought has seen many pastoralists in most parts of Mandera migrate to neighboring countries like Ethiopia and Somalia in search of pasture and water.
“A big number of pastoralists families mainly from Omar Jilo and Arabia who fled with their livestock to Somalia and Ethiopia for pasture and water are now returning with only their walking sticks after they lost their animals to biting dry spell,” a drought victim stated.
Governor Mohamed Adan Khalif urged the National government to declare the ravaging drought a national emergency before the prevailing situation claims human lives. He said the drought situation is currently at an alarming stage and is convinced that it will escalate to an emergency situation.
He said the county is staring at a bleak future and appealed to the National government for speedy help to the affected residents. The number of starving families in Mandera is projected to rise to 600,000 in the coming days due to the escalation of the drought situation and rising cost of living.