In a dried-out riverbed a woman and her young son kneel beside a hand-dug hole in the ground, using plastic canisters to scoop water burbling up through the sand. Several naked children with swollen bellies wait their turn. The improvised well seems to be little more than a puddle, yet an entire community of 600 people depend on it. A hand pumped well is just several hundred meters away, under the shade of palm trees, but the bolts on it are bust. The villagers tried to repair it with palm fronds, but that did not work.
Nakujan Ariong, a mother of six, says she knows that the dirty water is not safe to drink, but her family has no alternative. “This is the only water available, and that’s why we use it,” she tells The Lancet. As she is speaking, a man brings over two camels to drink from the watering hole, which the children have just vacated.
It is still early in the year, but already nearly 1.3 million Kenyans are going hungry. In Turkana, in the northwest, the percentage of children younger than 5 years at risk of malnutrition is more than 21 percent. One woman was arrested for feeding her children the family dog.
In Wajir, in the northeast of the country, people are again having to rely on water being trucked to their communities, while water sources dry up and “drought birds” have made an appearance, despoiling local water supplies with faeces. Hungry residents are crossing into Somalia seeking pasture and water.
Read more from Pulitzer Center grantee Samuel Loewenberg and view his project: “From the Ground Up: Fixing Foreign Aid in an Age of Scarcity”