Thursday, August 27, 2009

Changing climate and worsening drought threatens lives in Wajir

Reuters AlertNet via Oxfam: Communities in Wajir have told Oxfam at a series of public hearings that the drought in the district is becoming the most severe in recent memory and has left children malnourished, animals weak or dying, and people struggling to find water. With just over three months until the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, and with worsening drought across the country leaving nearly 4 million Kenyans in urgent need of aid, Oxfam organised public hearings for pastoralist communities to testify about their plight and what needs to be done in response.

Many communities said the local climate is changing, with the rains failing more frequently and droughts becoming more common. They said the most critical danger they face now is a lack of water. Some people reported having to walk up to 60 kilometres to find water for their family and animals, and said the drought has left them surviving on less than five litres of water per day - far below the international standard of 15 litres per day.

…In some areas, communities reported that livestock have started dying because of the long treks for water - 185 animal carcasses were recently found around one dried-up water source. Most communities in Wajir are pastoralists and livestock are the most vital source of income. With a lack of clean water, there are also growing concerns of outbreaks of serious illnesses.

…Philippa Crosland-Taylor, head of Oxfam GB in Kenya, said: "Droughts are happening more frequently, and the government and donors need to be aware of the changing climate now and in future, and shape their policies accordingly. Emergency aid is urgently needed now, but in the long-term we need to rethink policies to focus on mitigating the risks of droughts before they occur, rather than rushing in food aid when it's too late. Improving development in the most vulnerable areas is key, especially in the light of increasing climate variability."…

Local men unload trucks filled with American aid near Wajir, Kenya. Shot by Monica's Dad, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

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