Climate change hits Kenya hard

August 27, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 27 – Communities in Wajir district have said that the drought in the area was becoming the most severe in recent memory and had left children malnourished, animals weak or dead, and people struggling to find water, according to UK charity Oxfam.

Speaking in a series of public hearings, the communities said the local climate was changing, with the rains failing more frequently and droughts becoming more common. Oxfam reported on Thursday that the communities said the most critical danger they faced was 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,” read the statement by Oxfam in part.

63-year-old Habiba Osman testified at a hearing in Wajir South: “I can remember far back, and over time the droughts have got more and more frequent. Now I have to wake up at 4am to walk for four hours to reach the nearest borehole, where trucks bring our only supply of water. Even when I get there, I have to queue for more hours to collect water because there are so many other people waiting.”

The statement from Oxfam also stated that many local people said they had noticed the climate changing, but did not know why.

“I have never seen the situation this bad – there is no water at all. Cattle are our livelihoods, and when they are gone we have nothing left. Our children cannot go to school because they have to spend all day looking for water for the cattle. We desperately need another borehole and more water here,” said Omar Haji, testifying at a hearing in Hadado.

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,” the Oxfam head added.

Communities called on the Kenyan government, international donors and humanitarian organisations to provide more long-term development in the region, not just emergency aid.

People suffering from the drought said health centres, water boreholes, and medicine for cattle which have been weakened by the drought and easily succumb to disease, are most needed.  
Oxfam said with the major UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, the coming months were a vital time for ensuring the world’s poor get a fair deal.

“Climate change is a global problem, and we are seeing its impact in places like Wajir.”

“Africa is responsible for less than four percent of the world’s carbon emissions, but it is the hardest hit by its effects. “


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