Drops of hope in drought stricken Garissa

Unprecedented drought in northern Kenya has hit hard, killing entire herds of livestock and depriving families of income. FCA is supporting people in Garissa County with cash, providing water fetching equipment and by repairing damaged boreholes.

A DRIVE THROUGH GARISSA TOWN deep into Lagdera and Balambala engulfs you in a sense of despondency. Acres of land filled with nothing but dying shrubs and dried dams stretch beyond what the eye can see. As the wind blows, giving you a reprieve from the heat and scorching sun, it carries with it a blanket of dust and sand. A clear indication of how bad the drought has become.

A distant figure in a parched landscape.
Photo by Dennis Otieno

The villages are littered with rotten carcasses and dried bones from animals that used to reflect a community’s identity. Homesteads that were once full of life, have been reduced to chunks of bare land and abandoned makeshift homes. Families that once sat together for a meal are missing a father. The men have been forced to leave their families behind, seeking pasture to save the remaining animals.

The dried skull of a dead animal

The dried skull of a dead animal is a common sight in Garissa County. Whole herds of cattle have died, as pastorialists see water and grasslands disappear. Photo: Kevin Ochieng

This is the reality of life for thousands of people living in communities across Northern Kenya. Desperation has slowly crept in as they struggle to survive and hold on to hope, for a future that seems so bleak.

“We have not seen a drop of rain, in two years,” says Ebla Ali, who has lived in Balambala for 15 years. “We have never experienced anything like this, our animals have died and even water for drinking has become difficult to get.”

Choosing between water and school

Her children no longer go to school in the afternoon as they have to fetch water from a lager in a dried riverbed close to her home. She wants them to study and to attend school, but the choice is bleak: survival today or her children’s future. “We have to choose between school or dying from lack of water.”

Ebla’s story is not unique, she represents thousands of women living in Garissa who are forced to make the same heartbreaking decision every day. How does a mother give hope to her children, when she has just watched the last of their goats succumb to starvation?

Ebla may have run out of hope, but she and many mothers across Northern Kenya remain resilient. A little boost has sparked their hope and is helping them navigate this difficult time.

Photo by Dennis Otieno

Together for Garissa

Over the past few months, FCA Kenya has supported over 600 homesteads in Garissa and Marsabit County through cash transfers of 7,600 to 7,800 Kenyan Shillings for each household, equivalent to about 63 euros. This has enabled families to buy food, water and school supplies for their children. The first cycle ran from May to July of 2022, and the second cycle in August, expected to run until the end of the year.

To ease the communities water storage problem, we mobilised individual Kenyans and local corporations, through our local fundraising initiative #TogetherforGarissa to support the distribution of water storage equipment to households. We partnered with UNICEF, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa and individual Kenyan donors, who’ve supported us to distribute over 5,600 twenty-litre jerrycans and 3,600 buckets to families in Garissa and Marsabit County.

Women fetching water from a makeshift shallow well.

Women fetch water from a makeshift shallow well using jerry cans provided by FCA. Photo by Kevin Ochieng

While the jerrycans ensure the communities can store clean water for drinking and household use, there’s a need to distribute water tanks to ensure the water is accessed hygienically.

When we support people, we are not only giving access to water, but we are also giving drops of hope that are restoring the dignity and livelihood of communities. We are transforming the lives of a generation that needs to be in school, to find the means of breaking the cycle of poverty that plagues their environment.

Close up shot of water pouring out of a pipe in a borehole
Water running from a repaired borehole in Marsabit County. Photo: Ahmed Shale

Recently, the coming of the short rains has brought cautious optimism of a new dawn and the end of the drought. Garissa waits to see whether it prepares the ground to nurture new life, and restores hope in the homesteads.

This article was originally published on the FCA Kenya website
Text: Faith Inyanchi