In a dry river bed in arid northwestern Kenya, herders dig deeper and deeper wells in an eager search for water as the region suffers its worst drought in 40 years, killing livestock and crops. , which aggravates the hunger crisis.
Over the past four rainy seasons, annual rains have failed in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, forcing 1.5 million people to flee their homes in search of food and water elsewhere.
The impact of hunger is etched on the faces of the children who fill the “stabilization ward” for serious health problems at the Lodwar County and Referral Hospital in northwestern Kenya.
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“I have three grandchildren who have been affected by hunger,” said Agnes Ekereru, sitting on a bed with her four-year-old grandson, Ekai Ebei. “All my cattle have died because of the drought.”
Nearly two million children in the Horn of Africa require urgent treatment for life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF estimates.
The hunger problem is exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed the price of cooking oil, bread and wheat flour to record highs in local markets, says UNICEF.
Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) say the drought has been caused by climate change and the La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean.
Aid groups and authorities predict that the upcoming rains in the Horn of Africa are also likely to fail, hurting communities that a UNICEF official in Kenya says are some of the least responsible for global carbon emissions.
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“Ironically, it’s not the (countries) that are contributing the most to that global emission that are paying the highest price,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“And here comes the notion of fairness and justice: why should I pay such a high price for something I haven’t contributed as much to?”
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With each passing season, the people of Turkana County, mostly nomadic herders famous for their colorful beadwork and cloth, have fewer resources to fall back on, pushing them closer to the edge.
Earlier this month, the Kenyan president declared the crisis a national disaster.
“I have lost so much,” said Loudi Lokoriyen, a goat herder searching for water on the outskirts of Lodwar city.
“About three hundred (goats) have died, 50 camels have died and are still dying.”