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."


Drought

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.

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"This all used to be green,” said Mursal, office coordinator for Oxfam Wajir.
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Women carry their children through a sandstorm in a remote village of Wajir County, Kenya.

Women carry their children through a sandstorm in a remote village of Wajir County, Kenya.

A boy hides behind his mother’s dress during a sandstorm in a remote village in Wajir County, Northern Kenya.

A boy hides behind his mother’s dress during a sandstorm in a remote village in Wajir County, Northern Kenya.

Zeinab Issack, 34, and Fatima Dakane Bulle, 38, wait for a sandstorm to pass in a remote village near Hadado Town, Northern Kenya.

Zeinab Issack, 34, and Fatima Dakane Bulle, 38, wait for a sandstorm to pass in a remote village near Hadado Town, Northern Kenya.

A family waits for a sandstorm to pass in an isolated village near Hadado Town in Wajir County, Kenya.  "The livestock is weak now," said Gigsy Dakane, 47. "I have no means to move. I'll just stay here and wait for the rains."

A family waits for a sandstorm to pass in an isolated village near Hadado Town in Wajir County, Kenya. 

"The livestock is weak now," said Gigsy Dakane, 47. "I have no means to move. I'll just stay here and wait for the rains."

Sisters Kadija and Aminda Hussein rest at a shop in Hadado town in Northern Kenya. The two sisters said they are struggling to feed their children due to the ongoing drought in the region.

Sisters Kadija and Aminda Hussein rest at a shop in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

The two sisters said they are struggling to feed their children due to the ongoing drought in the region.

Abdulahi Yusef, 40, waits near his shop in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya. An ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has drained underground water tables in the region. Yusef maintains one of the only sources of water in the remote town; a Water ATM sponsored by Oxfam UK. 

Abdulahi Yusef, 40, waits near his shop in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya.

An ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa has drained underground water tables in the region. Yusef maintains one of the only sources of water in the remote town; a Water ATM sponsored by Oxfam UK. 

Former livestock herder, Halima Boute, 60, moved to Hadado Town in Northern Kenya after most of her goats and sheep died in an earlier drought. Still, she said the current situation is even more difficult than anything before.

Former livestock herder, Halima Boute, 60, moved to Hadado Town in Northern Kenya after most of her goats and sheep died in an earlier drought. Still, she said the current situation is even more difficult than anything before.

"This is the worst drought -- the most extreme," Boute said. "The drought has affected everything."
Ibadha Malele, 38, sits outside her home in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya.

Ibadha Malele, 38, sits outside her home in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya.

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. 

Sahara Ali Omar, 10, holds a water credit toiken outside a Water ATM top-up shop in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

Sahara Ali Omar, 10, holds a water credit toiken outside a Water ATM top-up shop in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

A boy waits to top-up his credit for the Water ATM in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

A boy waits to top-up his credit for the Water ATM in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

A girl waits to top-up her credit for the Water ATM in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

A girl waits to top-up her credit for the Water ATM in Hadado town in Northern Kenya.

Zeinab Issa, 28, waits for the shop owner to top-up her Water ATM token in Hadado, Kenya.

Zeinab Issa, 28, waits for the shop owner to top-up her Water ATM token in Hadado, Kenya.

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. 

Arron Gesar, 34, holds her token to collect water from a Water ATM in Hadado, Kenya.

Arron Gesar, 34, holds her token to collect water from a Water ATM in Hadado, Kenya.

A woman uses her water credit, which is stored in a small, plastic token, to buy water from a Water ATM in Hadado, Kenya.

A woman uses her water credit, which is stored in a small, plastic token, to buy water from a Water ATM in Hadado, Kenya.

Rukia Billow, 24, collects water several times a day from a kiosk in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya. The kiosk, which distributes 20 liters of clean water for about .20 cents, provides a lifeline for many families during the ongoing drought in the region. But this water is still too costly for many mothers, whose sole source of income is the livestock that left with their husbands months before.

Rukia Billow, 24, collects water several times a day from a kiosk in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya. The kiosk, which distributes 20 liters of clean water for about .20 cents, provides a lifeline for many families during the ongoing drought in the region. But this water is still too costly for many mothers, whose sole source of income is the livestock that left with their husbands months before.

Ibadha Malele, 38, holds a Water ATM token in Hadado town, Northern Kenya. 

Ibadha Malele, 38, holds a Water ATM token in Hadado town, Northern Kenya. 

Delivering

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. 

Bishara Abdiladir, 53,  collects water from a Water ATM in Hadado Town in Nothern Kenya. She said she typically makes four trips to the Water ATM everyday.

Bishara Abdiladir, 53,  collects water from a Water ATM in Hadado Town in Nothern Kenya. She said she typically makes four trips to the Water ATM everyday.

Bishara Abdi Iladir, 53, rolls a barrel of water to her home in Northern Kenya. The price of water has skyrocketed in the Horn of Africa due to an ongoing drought in the region. Thankfully, Oxfam provides access to prepaid Water ATMs in drought stricken areas that keep water prices fair and consistent for Iladir and her 30 children and grandchildren.

Bishara Abdi Iladir, 53, rolls a barrel of water to her home in Northern Kenya. The price of water has skyrocketed in the Horn of Africa due to an ongoing drought in the region. Thankfully, Oxfam provides access to prepaid Water ATMs in drought stricken areas that keep water prices fair and consistent for Iladir and her 30 children and grandchildren.

Bishara Abdi Iladir, 53, sits next to the Jerry Cans she uses to transport water from a pump to her home four times a day. The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa forced Iladir’s husband to take their livestock to lusher land in the east, leaving her 30 children and grandchildren without fresh milk, meat or a means to survive. It has been four months since her husband left; she hasn’t heard from him since.

Bishara Abdi Iladir, 53, sits next to the Jerry Cans she uses to transport water from a pump to her home four times a day. The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa forced Iladir’s husband to take their livestock to lusher land in the east, leaving her 30 children and grandchildren without fresh milk, meat or a means to survive. It has been four months since her husband left; she hasn’t heard from him since.

Samey Alasow, 50, stands outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya. Recurrent droughts in the Horn of Africa have led to poor crop production and widespread food insecurity. More than 2.6 million Kenyans lack reliable access to nutritious food according to the United Nations. That number is expected to rise in the coming months.

Samey Alasow, 50, stands outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya. Recurrent droughts in the Horn of Africa have led to poor crop production and widespread food insecurity. More than 2.6 million Kenyans lack reliable access to nutritious food according to the United Nations. That number is expected to rise in the coming months.

Samey Alasow, 50, washes clothes outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya. The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history, forcing many families walk long distances to collect contaminated drinking water. Fortunately, Alasow is able to purchase clean water from Oxfam's Water ATM’s for about $.20 per 20 liters.

Samey Alasow, 50, washes clothes outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya.
The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history, forcing many families walk long distances to collect contaminated drinking water.
Fortunately, Alasow is able to purchase clean water from Oxfam's Water ATM’s for about $.20 per 20 liters.

Samey Alasow, 50, washes clothes outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya.

Samey Alasow, 50, washes clothes outside her home on the outskirts of Hadado Town in Northern Kenya.

Samey Alasow, 50, and her daughter sit inside their thatched-roof home in Hadado Town in Northern Kenya. The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa forced Alasow’s husband to take their livestock to lusher land in the east, leaving her and her daughter to fend for themselves in Hadado. That was eight months ago. They haven’t heard from him since.

Samey Alasow, 50, and her daughter sit inside their thatched-roof home in Hadado Town in Northern Kenya. The ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa forced Alasow’s husband to take their livestock to lusher land in the east, leaving her and her daughter to fend for themselves in Hadado. That was eight months ago. They haven’t heard from him since.

Haretha Muhaumud, 47, sits in her home in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya. Oxfam's water ATMs provide access to reliable and affordable clean water in towns across northern Kenya, a commodity that is increasingly difficult to find due to the ongoing drought in the region. The Water ATM’s "have really transformed my life," said Muhaumud. "Now, the water is very much close and it has helped me very much."

Haretha Muhaumud, 47, sits in her home in Hadado Town, Northern Kenya. Oxfam's water ATMs provide access to reliable and affordable clean water in towns across northern Kenya, a commodity that is increasingly difficult to find due to the ongoing drought in the region. The Water ATM’s "have really transformed my life," said Muhaumud. "Now, the water is very much close and it has helped me very much."