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By Abdimalik Hajir

A humanitarian crisis is looming in Garissa County following a severe drought that has affected thousands of pastoralist families.

Water sources have dried up and pastures for livestock depleted.

Affected families have appealed to the government and the international community to intervene urgently as the drought threatens their lives and their livestock.

Both residents and animals are depending on few remaining water points, which are already contaminated.

In some areas, the locals have to trek for more than 30km to fetch water for drinking and domestic use.

At Ijara sub-county, which is one of the hardest hit, schools and health facilities are on the verge of being shut down.

According to residents who spoke to Nation, children in the drought-affected areas have started showing signs of contracting water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea.

When Nation visited the only dam at Korisa in Ijara sub-county, it was a beehive of activity.

Residents drawing the visibly contaminated water that had a pungent smell were competing with livestock and wild animals.

Emaciated goats and cows got stuck in the mud and it took the intervention of their owners to pull them out.

“Wild animals are “fighting” with people over access of the only water source in this area. Just the other day, residents were forced to take turns day and night to keep buffaloes away from the dam, but now we have given up because it’s risky to ward off the animals as they come in big numbers to drink water,” said a resident, Mr Haret Nasteh.

He said most families have moved with their livestock deep into Boni Forest in search of pastures.

“We appeal to the government and international community to come to our aid urgently because the situation is getting out of hand,” he added.

According to Garissa County’s National Drought Management Authority, the dry spell is at an alarming stage as water points have dried up.

He noted that cases of human-wildlife conflict have increased as thirsty wild animals invade human settlements in search of water.

Ahmed Mursal, a head teacher Korisa primary school in Ijara was on Thursday contemplating to call the school board to send children home.

He said his biggest worry was that stray buffaloes looking for water might harm pupils.

He added there is no water at the institution for cooking food for the pupils.

“We fear the animals might cross over to the school, which does not have a good fence,” he said.

He said the school enrolment has drastically reduced as most parents have shifted with their school going children in search of water and pastures.

Ijara sub-county education officer Robert Mukombe said although the situation is getting worse, he has warned school administrators against closing the institutions.

He said the government was doing its best to ensure schools are not closed especially during the national exams.

“We appeal for urgent intervention,” said Ijara administrator Mohamed Dahir.