12 months ago Governments and NGOs raced to East Africa to prevent a humanitarian disaster caused by the worst drought in 60 years.
They responded to dire warnings that 12 million people were threatened by malnutrition after rain had failed to arrive for the second year in a row.
Livestock was dying, crops were failing and a crisis was looming. Every day, thousands of families arrived in refugee camps in north eastern Kenya from Somalia, desperate for water, food and medicine.
Thanks to high-profile appeals and reports in the media, the public gave much-needed money, emergency aid flooded into the area and disaster was averted. Aid agencies and politicians spoke of how it was vital that all future work in the region should focus on disaster risk reduction to ensure that people can cope with the effects of climate change.
For decades Practical Action had been working with some of the poorest people in the region, providing them with simple technology to enable them to cope with water shortages.
A year on, and although two good rainy seasons have enabled a recovery, people living in the region still feel helpless about what may happen if drought conditions occur again.
The media and humanitarian organisations have long since shifted focus to other international issues in Egypt, Syria and Mali, but Practical Action is continuing to honour a commitment to using appropriate technology to help people escape poverty and become self-sufficient in all conditions.
Abdul Haro directs Practical Action’s projects in the Somali cluster area, which covers north eastern Kenya, parts of southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia. He works with local people, using their existing skills and resources to improve their lives and help them survive future droughts.
The charity has improved the quantity and quality of water conservation and milk production, while also working to improve the health, welfare and productivity of livestock and working animals by providing better access to training, education and veterinary services.
Abdul said: “Memories about the last drought are almost erased because we have received two very good seasons consecutively. But the long rains in April-June were below optimal levels and should the short rains expected in October-November fail, then there will be trouble. Currently, there is plenty of pasture and water pans have water, although recently a few areas have started reporting water stress for humans.
“We are working with people of Northern Kenya to strengthen their existing skills and resources. By doing so, they can help themselves become crisis resistant and cope with the effects of climate change more effectively.
“Our programme to improve the welfare of working animals has enabled us to improve the health, and therefore the longevity, of around 45,000 donkeys. This improves the capacity of the farmers who own to produce and carry more food so that they can feed their families more effectively and earn money.”
Practical Action has also worked with local farmers to help them cope with climate change by improving the traditional shallow wells which have been dug into seasonal riverbeds. Often old and in very poor condition, they used to get contaminated, particularly when animals wander in to get a much needed drink, but the addition of a lid and a separate trough for animals, the water is now safer to use and drink from.
To view more of Practical Action’s work on reducing vulnerability in the region, log on to http://practicalaction.org/reducing-vulnerability-east-africa
Notes to editors:
Practical Action has images of the charity’s work in Kenya. Members of staff working in the Horn of Africa are also available for interview about their work over the past year.
Abdul Haro will be completing a weekly blog throughout July and August, describing how the region is one year on from the drought and how Practical Action’s projects are progressing in Mandera.
If you would like to visit Practical Action projects and see their impact please contact Andy Heath to discuss your options on 01926 634552 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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