‘There is no equality in suffering here’

Jacinta Atabo Lomaluk has never experienced a drought like this

In a desolate village in Turkana, northern Kenya, villagers are praying for rain, but it just won’t come.

The fourth quarter of consecutive rains contributed to one of East Africa’s worst droughts in decades, with the village of 3,600 families among the worst hit.

The land is dry, dusty, and barren.

The remaining livestock ate the dead gray shrubs that covered the land. People eat whatever they can find, usually not a lot.

Jacinta Atabo Lomaluk lives in the village of Lomoputh.

She is a mother of five, and her eldest son has been malnourished since September. The 12-year-old is frail and unable to walk or even stand alone. She said she had never experienced a situation as bad as this drought before.

“It’s getting worse, worse than ever. That’s why you can see signs of hunger here.”

‘Hunger has become our companion’

Numerous cases of malnutrition have occurred since the most recent drought began last year.

Ms Lomaluk said her family only eats one meal a day. Since there is not enough food to move around, priority is given to children and the elderly.

“I want immediate assistance to save people from starvation, especially children who are at risk,” she said. “Otherwise, we expect many more deaths.”

Women sitting under a tree during a meeting

The community is working hard to support each other during these difficult times

Ms Lomaluk is just one of the millions of people who are feeling the effects of the lack of rain.

At a community meeting, local woman Narogai Long said they were beginning to think their situation was not going to get better.

“Three years without any intervention. We’re starting to believe that hunger is for us,” she said. “It became our partner.”

“There is no food. We, mothers, have to sacrifice ourselves and give all we have to our children or elders,” she added.

‘Twenty million people are at risk’

Families become desperate for food and water. Millions of children are malnourished. The livestock on which nomadic families depended for food and livelihoods have died.

The drought has extended far beyond this small Kenyan village, and the UN World Food Programme says as many as 20 million people in East Africa are at risk of acute hunger.

Ethiopia is battling its worst drought in nearly half a century, and 40 percent of Somalia’s population is at risk of starvation.

Sheep graze on dry land

Animals struggle to find plants to eat in Turkana

The causes of this international crisis are complex and show no signs of abating.

Climate change has always been a major concern.

According to the United Nations, Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Despite the fact that it only contributes 4% of global carbon emissions.

Ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia have further exacerbated an already precarious situation.

Although far apart, the conflict in Ukraine also played a role, causing food prices to soar and heightening fears of hunger in communities that have to buy food when they can’t grow it.

Ukraine also attracts most of the world’s attention and resources. As a result, aid budgets are stretched, and it is not known when or even if enough aid will reach East Africa.

“The world doesn’t look like this”

Martin Griffiths, head of the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, wants to change that.

“I want to try and get the world to pay attention to what’s going on here,” he told the BBC during a visit to drought-hit northern Kenya.

“The world’s attention is entirely on Ukraine, a terrible crisis, I have been to both places, but the suffering I see here is unparalleled.”

While his visit did not bring direct aid to the region, he still hopes to bring some relief — if donors increase funding.

“At the United Nations, we have a program for the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, which is precisely to meet those needs,” he said. “If they’re well-funded, they’ll get the help they deserve, and it won’t take long.”

children standing by tree

Parents don’t eat so they can feed their children

Residents of the village of Lomoputh have shown resilience. They have very little food, which they share with their neighbors and are determined to preserve their way of life.

Raising awareness of the plight of people here may bring global attention and aid, but as the drought continues, the most vulnerable may not be able to wait much longer.

“Even if it rains, it doesn’t help. Even if there is aid, it doesn’t help. We need a long-term plan,” said Ms. Lomarook, sheltering from the morning sun under a tree next to her home.

“Otherwise, you might come here in a few months, and there will be no one here, and we’ve all migrated from here.”

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