Thursday, December 23, 2021

Kenya, climate and conflict

  Pastoralist herders are caught in a conflict along Kenya’s border with Uganda and South Sudan over dwindling natural resources, exacerbated by severe drought and hunger ravaging the region.

The World Food Programme has reported that at least 2.4 million people in Kenya risk going hungry as drought hits the north and east of the country, a nearly threefold increase from last year. 

Two consecutive failed rainy seasons and multi-seasonal drought is expected to drive crisis and emergency across eastern and northern Kenya, as well as southern and southeastern Ethiopia and Somalia, where severe food insecurity is expected to continue into 2022, driven by the combined effects of conflict, drought, floods and economic shocks on household food and income sources.

A December bulletin issued by Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority warned that Turkana is among eight counties at the “alarm phase” of worsening drought. A forecast by Kenya’s Meteorological Department indicated Turkana among several counties experiencing below-average rainfall of less than 30-60 percent of the 40-year average in northern and eastern Kenya.

Ezekiel Dida, the programme manager at the Lotus Kenya Action for Development (LOKADO), an organisation set up to address cross-border conflict, acute poverty and illiteracy in northwestern Kenya, said “a new trend” has emerged in recent months. People were now stealing animals to sell them for money, rather than in previous years where raids would occur to restock herds, he said.

Unpredictable rainfalls are chief drivers of the conflict.

“Things have changed totally, so within the pastoral community, knowing when to be where, the formula is still not there,” said Dida. As people are forced to migrate to areas where they can find water and pasture, “those are the areas where a lot of attacks are as people struggle to share the same resources, especially with pastoralists from other countries”.

In September, Kenya’s government released two billion Kenyan shillings ($17.7m) under the National Drought Emergency Fund to respond to the ongoing drought situation in the country. But this has been slow to trickle down to the areas where it is needed most.

At the Turkana pastoralist Development Organization TUPADO, an non-governmental organsation working with pastoralists from Turkana and in neighbouring countries including South Sudan and Uganda, programme manager Sammy Ekal said a more robust government and humanitarian effort is urgently needed in severely drought-affected areas.

“The county government has no budget; as of now, they are not able to provide feed,” said Ekal, adding that the lack of rainfall since last year had prompted a “mass movement” of pastoralists from Turkana to the cross-border areas of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

By January, Ekal fears there will be deaths. “That is what we need to prevent.”

‘Heading into the worst’: How drought drives conflict in Kenya | Climate | Al Jazeera

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