The Samburu District often suffers long periods of devastating drought. The absence of rainfall places great stress on the community as there is insufficient grazing pasture and water. In order to search for better pasture and water resources, many communities are forced to migrate during drought. Although necessary given these circumstances, migration also carries many associated difficulties such as removing children from school, leaving established businesses, and resettling in a location which may also prove unfavourable.
Communities that do not migrate face many difficulties as well. Access to safe and reliable water is a significant concern. Rivers and wells often dry up due to the arid climate, forcing women to walk up to 12 hours a day to carry water back to their families. Some of these women die from over-exhaustion along the way. This challenge exists during and after periods of severe drought. Poor soil quality and insufficient water resources also make farming impossibility within the Samburu district. Thus, blood, milk, and meat are the staple components of the Samburu diet. During drought, many livestock become undernourished or even die. Lacking the staple component, the Samburu must attempt to supplement their diet with foodstuffs such as rice and maize. However, lack of cash resources to buy these foodstuffs results in severe malnutrition and death, especially among children.
Undernourishment also makes it more difficult for people to fight off heat exhaustion and recover from diseases. In particular, during drought, mosquitoes lay more eggs in the stagnant water where rivers used to flow, causing malaria outbreaks. Lack of clean water also increases rates of diarrhea. These problems are compounded by limited access to health care facilities and providers.
Drought has a significant impact on the economy. Within the Samburu economy, livestock serve as currency. When community members lose their investment in livestock holdings, they lose their economic security. Exacerbating their difficulties, tourists, who provide much needed revenue, tend to visit less during drought. Overall, morale plummets during drought as families and communities lose all their resources. At the end of a drought, people are left with almost nothing and are forced to rebuild their lives.
Severe water shortages are a constant concern and constrain development within the Samburu district. As the primary providers for their families, women especially feel the strains of water shortages. They walk miles in search of water and food, care for their malnourished children and family members, and maintain small businesses. Such critical and numerous responsibilities put women at risk for physical and emotional exhaustion.
Such suffering needs to end. The Samburu District is in dire need of concerted, large-scale investment and planning, involving the Kenyan government, NGOs, and local communities to ensure that the Samburu can live successfully in their arid homeland.