Drought in The Horn of Africa
Photos and words for Oxfam GB
The Horn of Africa is in the grip of a severe drought that has led to poor crop production and widespread food insecurity in the region.
More than 2.6 million Kenyans lack reliable access to nutritious food and competition for clean water is further exacerbating an already dire situation. The nation needs to fill an 81 percent funding gap in order to respond to the emergency according to the United Nations.
I traveled to Northern Kenya to photograph the drought for Oxfam GB, one of the only organizations providing direct relief in the area.
One of Oxfam GB's initiatives in Northern Kenya was the installation of Water ATM’s, a credit kiosk system that provides reliable and affordable clean water in towns across northern Kenya.
In addition to providing a simple, cost-effective water distribution system, Oxfam’s Water ATM’s also freed women and children from the arduous task of collecting water from shallow ponds and dams many miles away.
The Water ATM’s "have really transformed my life," said Haretha Muhaumud, 47. "Now, the water is very much close and it has helped me very much."
The once vast fields of long grasses have transformed into sand dunes and cracked soil during the 9-month drought in Kenya.
It will be another four months – or longer – before the rains return to the north.
"This all used to be green,” said Mursal, office coordinator for Oxfam Wajir.
"This is the worst drought -- the most extreme," Boute said. "The drought has affected everything."
Residents of Hadado town in Northern Kenya purchase credit to collect clean water from Oxfam's Water ATMs.
Credit is stored and deducted from a small blue token supplied by Oxfam GB in conjunction with a government-owned water company.
Residents swipe their token across a magnetic screen that automatically deducts credit for each liter of water collected. Residents can purchase about 20 liters of clean water for .20 cents.
In Northern Kenya, women and children are responsible for collecting water for their family. Before the water ATMs, many women said they had to water several miles to find drinking water, oftentimes gathering it from shallow ponds or a small dam located far outside the town. Now, women can avoid the long, time-consuming treks to find water by using the Water ATMs.