Starving animals in Kenya face worst drought in decades

26 May 2017

The debilitating drought in the Horn of Africa has left trails of suffering affecting animals and the people who look after them

In Kajiado County, one of the worst affected parts of Kenya, the situation is dire.

Hundreds of animals have died from lack of food and water. Riverbeds that once flowed with water have dried, leaving behind dusty tracts of land. The scorching sun has left dried vegetation devoid of life. The people cannot foresee an end to the drought.

World Animal Protection is on the ground distributing emergency feed and minerals to 79,000 starving animals. Meanwhile, the Kenyan government is delivering water.

Goats during drought in Kajiado County, Kenya

Image credit: Georgina Goodwin

No food for kilometres

For the Maasai people of Kajiado County, animals are the only livelihood. This area is semi-arid and cannot support any other economic activity.

In Mbirikani village, we meet Garacie in line waiting to collect hay from us to feed her animals. She is a mother of six who owns one cow and two sheep. She puts forward a happy façade, but there is a shadow of despair on her face.

“Our pasture is gone,” Garacie tells us. “I have no choice but to feed my sheep from my palm with leaves I pick from a tree. It is difficult, but the thought of losing my animals is worse. They depend on me, since my husband left to find pasture for our only cow.”

Men, like Garacie’s husband, have had to move their cows to find pasture in Chyulu Hills National Park eight kilometres away. The cows will only find enough food there until the end of May. Then the men will have to look for greener pastures, but they are not sure they will find any.

No animal escapes the drought

The drought has driven wild animals out of the national parks. Lions, leopards and hyenas roam the villages at night looking for food and water.

“This is the worst drought I have seen in my lifetime,” says Maria Sepe, another Mbirikani woman. “We have always co-existed with wild animals, but now the wild animals too have nothing to eat or drink.”

People risk their lives to defend their animals from the predators – but while they are a dramatic and deadly threat, the larger danger is the persistent drought.

Together, World Animal Protection, the Kenyan government and other partners are working to help the most vulnerable communities in Kajiado. For the Maasai, anything that affects animals has the same effect on people – so humanitarian aid must help animals as well as communities.

“I am grateful to World Animal Protection for the fodder and minerals for my animals,” Maria says. “With this, my animals will have feed for the next thirty days.”

You can help

No one knows when disasters will strike. But we work every day to protect vulnerable animals and to help communities and governments prepare.

You can support animals in Kajiado county and other animals affected by disasters around the world – please give generously today.

Main image credit: Georgina Goodwin

For the Maasai, anything that affects animals has the same effect on people – so humanitarian aid must help animals as well as communities.