Widespread famine in samburu
A widespread famine has emerged in eastern Samburu due to the loss of thousands of cattle during the February police attacks. The pastoralist tribe’s entire livestock holdings were confiscated in a violent operation, which took place during a severe drought. The drought was further complicated by a nationwide maize shortage, the result of an illegal sale of the country’s maize supply in October of this year. The Samburu are certain to perish from dehydration and starvation in the absence of their livestock because milk, which makes up 90 percent of their dietary intake, is their only source of protein and an important source of liquid.
Many of the survivors have untreated life-threatening injuries from gunshot wounds, shrapnel, burns, dehydration, and other injuries. There is also a cholera outbreak in the Kipsing area and other communities north of Lerata. It is estimated that nearly 100 people have died from secondary causes in addition to those who were killed during the police raids and these numbers are expected to rise as volunteers locate the dead and injured who fled the attacks and as people weaken as widespread famine takes hold. LCF has brought teams of volunteers to search for survivors hidden in caves in nearby mountains, bringing insupplies of dry milk, emergency aid and medical supplies by donkey. The Samburu are in imminent danger of dying by starvation and of their injuries and need immediate assistance.
police brutally attack Samburu tribe
On Feb 26, Kenyan government forces launched a series of ongoing assaults on the indigenous Samburu people in the remote northern region of the country, using helicopter gunships and armed ground forces to attack several villages. The police, claiming to be after cattle bandits, strafed unarmed villagers from the air and used clubs to beat villagers on the ground. The attacks have so far displaced more than 2,000 Samburu, a cattle-herding people closely related to the Maasai, and government forces confiscated all the communities’ cattle, leaving them with no food source.
According to Raphael Letimelo, Member of Parliament for the Samburu district, the assaults are not finished yet. “There have been reports and threats of possible mass executions and removal from of indigenous people from their traditional homelands throughout the Samburu District in the next few weeks,” he said. On March 5, unidentified assailants in Nairobi executed two prominent Kenyan human rights activists who planned to publicize the situation in Samburu District.
Drought Impacts Samburu District
One of the realities of life in isolated, rural areas of northern Kenya is the fragile line separating successful subsistence living from natural disaster. Natural disasters are particularly devastating to people living in areas with no outside access to communication, transportation, or emergency medical and humanitarian assistance. The drought in East Africa is thought to be one of the worst droughts in human history, impacting 7 countries and over 17 million people, including communities and people across the Samburu District.
A statement issued in Nairobi stated that the drought, which is affecting desert nomads living on the borders of Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, is now escalating into a full-scale emergency. It revealed that 70 percent of cattle, 60 percent of camels, and 90 percent of donkeys have already died of starvation. “Many parts of the region have seen no rain for 16 months, and along with the water shortage, there is now an acute lack of feed and forage for animals, resulting in such huge numbers dying,” said SPANA (The Society for Protecting Animals Abroad). “As you travel into the drought-affected areas of Kenya, animal carcasses litter the roadsides and you see children, with pails in their hands, searching for food and water.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is warning that climate change as well as the continuing destruction of forests, grasslands, wetlands and other critical ecosystems is magnifying droughts.
Once nomadic, the Samburu people historically moved with the rains to find water for their families and livestock. Not only were these traditional practices less damaging to the environment, they also helped people avoid problems associated with droughts and other natural disasters. Today, efforts to stop traditional nomadic practices have forced indigenous people onto group ranches, without access to secure and safe water resources or outside interventions to assist them.
The Centre for Lion Conservation and Research is responding to this crisis by providing food, water, medical supplies and other emergency services to those in the most remote locations of northern Kenya, where relief supplies are not available. “We have personally hand-delivered nearly 20 tons of food, water tanks, medicine and other supplies, but much more is needed,” reports program coordinator John Lesepe.
Project Simba mobilized the community and others to respond quickly to assist the people, livestock, and wildlife facing this emergency. Brief but torrential rains in January did little to bring relief to the situation. Flash floods swept away homes, killed livestock and people, and destroyed most emergency relief supplies. A malaria and Rift Valley Fever outbreak quickly followed the short rains as a result of increased mosquitoes in the region. In response, communities were assisted with emergency rescue efforts, mosquito nets, anti-malarial medications, and emergency livestock vaccinations.