Kenya

As drought lingers, Kenya’s nomadic Turkana tribes are among the worst affected

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© UNICEF video
The nomadic Turkana tribes of northeastern Kenya have been especially vulnerable to the severe year-long drought afflicting the region.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 21 March 2006 – The nomadic Turkana tribes of northeastern Kenya have been especially vulnerable to the severe year-long drought afflicting the Horn of Africa.

Like most pastoral and farming communities in the region, the tribes’ livelihood depends on their herds, which have been dying off because of the drought. Recent rains have not reached some of the most badly hit communities.

Across Central and East Africa, hundreds of people and tens of thousands of livestock have died from hunger and thirst. Drought has become a chronic emergency in this arid region of Africa. Nearly 3.5 million people, including at least half a million school children, are in need of emergency assistance.

Critical malnutrition rates

Against this backdrop, hospitals in Turkana are struggling to provide treatment to the huge number of undernourished children who stream through their doors every day. Routine immunization rates in many areas are alarmingly low, and the combination of malnutrition and measles poses a major threat.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
Hospitals in Turkana have witnessed an alarming rise in the number of children they treat. A UNICEF survey indicates that acute malnutrition rates are dangerously high in all parts of Turkana.

In fact, malnutrition and disease have increased markedly among those who are most at risk – especially pregnant and lactating mothers and young children.

A UNICEF survey indicates that acute malnutrition rates are dangerously elevated in all parts of Turkana. “The level of malnourished children in this district is quite high,” says UNICEF nutritionist Emily Teshome. “We have a global acute malnourished rate of 20 per cent. What that really means is that it is above the World Health Organization critical point, which is 15 percent."

Increased vulnerability

UNICEF has been coordinating emergency actions, working with the Ministries of Health, Water and Education, and concentrating efforts on three fronts:

  • Water and sanitation (trucking clean water to schools and feeding centres, providing pumps and water tanks, and boosting social mobilization activities on hygiene and sanitation)
  • Health and nutrition (scaling up targeted feeding of undernourished children through more therapeutic and supplementary feeding programmes, supporting mobile clinics in underserved and remote areas, and improving management of diarrhoeal diseases and immunization)
  • Education and child protection (maintaining school enrolment and retention, ensuring basic quality of education and providing schools with food rations, water supplies and educational materials).

In April, the United Nations will launch a regional appeal for the Horn of Africa to sustain its ongoing emergency programmes and protect the lives of children at this time of increased vulnerability.


 

 

Video

21 March 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the severe drought in Kenya and its impact on nomadic Turkana communities.

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