Kakuma Droughts and Floods
The drought accompanied by intensive heat has been persistent since the beginning of the year. The usually short rains between February and March passed without a single drop of rain from the clear skies. The weather was tremendously hotter and a visible burden on goats and human beings within the host environment. The local nomads of Turkana rely on livestock as their main source of livelihood. Like refugees, they also depend on humanitarian food aid. However, the nomads trek for long distances, dragging goat carcasses for the purpose of exchanging them for food rations with the refugee community or for monetary gains in exchanges for humanitarian consumption. Since these are the only meat supplement supplies in this desert, goat carcasses range in price from 2,500 to 4,000 Ksh (31 USD to 50 USD). Turkana women also exchange charcoal for WFP Food Rations.
The desert locality in which the camp settlement is situated is characterized strong heat radiation. Rainfall does not occur in predictable routines. When it does rain, it begins with dust storms and is followed by intensely hot sun. Rainfall often occurs suddenly, however, interrupting normal activities. The Tarach river can overflow to its banks even if rainfall is occurring nowhere near Kakuma. This combined with droughts at Kakuma proper can cause many problems, including property damage and an increase in famine mortality.
The first rainfall this year did not start until April 28th, 2011. The Great Rift Valley was flooded due to heavy downpour. Several flights and other transportation means from Lodwar to Lokichoggio and back were cancelled as the Kwalase river at Lodwar and other streams on the way to Lokichoggio were overflowing. A local Turkana girl who was tending to the goats and sheep slid from the bank of the Lotimo stream – about 1 km from Kakuma. As a result of this rain hundreds of temporary and muddy walls at the refugee camp were damaged. “Our shelters were made of mud and so they are in bad condition. If this rain continues for the next two days then all muddy shelter and makuti-roofed houses will be considerably damaged,” said Mohamed Juma, a community leader in Kakuma One in Zone Two. The shelter provision of UNHCR states that assessment is going on and that shelters that were damaged across the camp settlement need repairs. “It will be considered as soon as possible within the influx of spontaneous new arrivals to the camp,” said a staff member in the unit.
It was, on the other hand, a good day for the youngsters who could be found playing in the water in their uniforms. Yet this water posed new health hazards for the children who could more easily fall into the dirty garbage pits. Many camp zones have accumulated pools of dirty water. Such water remains stagnant for a long period of time becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes that spread malaria. Some of the holes that collect pools of water have come about due to environmental degradation resulting from brick-making. Brick-making has emerged as an alternative form of livelihood for refugees who are not allowed to harvest fire wood or to cut down trees to make charcoal outside the areas demarcated for refugees in the camp settlement. This remains the only option some refugees have for buying food beyond their food ration basket.