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Source: IRIN
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 NAIROBI, 19 September 2008 (IRIN) – At least 35,000 people are facing extreme food and water shortage in Mandera in the northeast along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia due to prevailing drought and poor rains, a humanitarian official said. 

“Of the total affected at least 16,000 are in the Takaba area of Mandera East District,” Melvin Chibole, an official with the NGO ActionAid, told IRIN. 

Most of the population in central and western Mandera is now reliant on water trucked from the area of Elwak 170 km away; the water is however inadequate. 

“The roads are poor so we are only able to deliver water three times per week,” Chibole said. Each of the beneficiary households receives 60 litres of water to last seven days. 

Drought and poor rains have led to the drying up of water pans and shallow wells. During the long rains in March only 20 percent of expected rainfall fell in Mandera after an equally poor short-rains season, according to a long-rains assessment (LRA) report. [ http://www.kenyafoodsecurity.org/inside.php?articleid=267

With the rains reducing access to pasture, boys have left school to migrate with the herds; the migrations have contributed in part to a 30 percent school dropout. Boarding schools have also closed due to poor sanitation. 

“By the time the migrating pastoralists reach the water points, there are already thousands of heads of livestock,” said Chiblole. It also costs 20 shillings (about 30 US cents) to provide a camel with water. 

The lack of pasture has had adverse effects. “This is affecting animal health which is in turn causing deaths of livestock, reduced price of livestock at market because of their poor health, and animals are beginning to stop producing milk,” Helen Mould, a press officer with the humanitarian organisation Islamic Relief Worldwide, told IRIN. 

“This is a very serious situation, especially for children for whom milk makes up a large part of their diet,” Mould said. 

Children ranging between six months and five years are consuming an average of two to three food groups. “Consumption of less than four food groups points to serious food insecurity,” according to the LRA report. 

The malnutrition levels in Mandera are on the rise according to a recent nutrition survey. The Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) level is 24.2 percent compared to 21.5 during same period in 2007. 

Mandera relies on cereal transported mainly from Nairobi, 1,400 km south west; the ongoing global food and fuel crisis has seen prices rise by at least 60 percent locally. The situation has been worsened by a severe drought in 2006 from which the pastoralists are yet to recover, said Mould. 

Poor hygiene conditions due to a lack of water are also increasing the number of people falling ill from diseases such as diarrhoea, she said. Cases of trachoma, an eye infection, have increased. 

“People need access to safe, clean water. They also need water and pasture for their animals to help keep them alive and healthy, as without their animals they have no livelihood,” she said. 

The next rains in Mandera are due in mid-October, however, “If as predicted these rains are also poor, water sources and pasture will not be replenished, and the situation could deteriorate further,” she warned. 

Thousands of people in Mandera are receiving monthly food rations under the Emergency Operations programme. A further 500 people displaced by inter-clan clashes over the ownership of a borehole are getting non-food aid, said Kenya Red Cross Communications Officer, Titus Mung’ou. Mandera has an estimated population of about 250,000, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. 

Islamic Relief Worldwide has established supplementary feeding centres for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women. The organisation is also building and repairing water points and water pans as well as conducting house to house sanitation awareness raising sessions. 

“To address the critical situation in Mandera, urgent interventions are required…and increased funding for the general food distribution to cover all those in need,” said a humanitarian update for 4-10 September by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.[ http://ochaonline.un.org/OchaLinkClick.aspx?link=ocha&docId=1094302

Aw/jm 

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