Camels / Drought / East Africa / Kenya / Pastoralism / Vulnerability

Hunger in Kenya’s Isiolo at ’emergency’ level

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Camel herding between Kenya’s northern towns of Moyale and Isiolo (photo on Flickr by azulnocturnal).

‘At a streetside kiosk in Isiolo, the price of camel bones for soup has jumped 250 per cent this year to 100 shillings ($1.10) a kilo, straining the pockets of many in the drought-hit eastern Kenyan town.

In a bitter irony that illustrates that the food crisis affecting 12.4m people across east Africa is about markets and management as well as an absence of rain, hungry livestock owners have found prices for their scrawny beasts have plummeted. Drought has devastated grazing land and skinnier animals fetch a much lower price at market.

‘The situation in Isiolo, says the UN, is an “emergency” that is “worsening”, a designation one notch before “famine”.

‘In Isiolo, it rained 4.6mm in the six months to June, one-fifth of average rainfall for that period over recent years. The vast majority of people in Isiolo make their living keeping livestock, but drought, poverty and poor management could make this tradition unsustainable. With no land to graze, cows pick at dried leaves. Many are so weak villagers can no longer rely on drinking their milk and blood.

‘Signs of hardship are everywhere. At one of 75 food distribution points in the area, spats break out as women tussle men for leftover grains in the tarpaulin. In Daaba village, near Isiolo, men survive on wild fruits and elderly women are so weak they lie wailing inside dark huts. “No camels, no work, high prices [for food], very bad,” says Khalif Ibrahim, who like many nomads from the country’s north moved south after losing all 80 of his cattle to drought two years ago. . . .’

Read the whole article at the Financial Times: Kenya fails to manage its food crisis, 31 Jul 2011.

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