Eye Witness: The hungry, thirsty people amid the stench of dead animals
By Dr. Rajendra Singh*
If there is no rain here in the next 10 to 15 days, then all the animals here will die
Habaswein (Kenya): Habaswein is the border of Kenya and Somalia. Around 20 thousand people live here. There is a large community of Somalians here. This is a very troubled area. The people here are getting desolate. Their animals are dying of hunger and thirst. Seeing the dead animals here, I felt very sad.
The condition is very serious here. The villages in this area are getting completely empty. Due to the famine here, nothing is visible far and wide, the whole area is deserted. There are dead animals all around, due to which there is a lot of stink here. It is also very difficult to stay here. There is only one borewell here, which runs on solar power. There must have been water around there before, so dead bodies of thousands of cows were lying around as now there was no water at all.
As this place is becoming desolate, many people are leaving it and going to other places. People struggle for livelihood and morality and human values have taken the back seat. I felt very sorry at the way they struggle.
There is a boundary dispute here between Kenya and Somalia.Here the condition is very dire, even as all are Muslims. The situation is very serious. There is no end to the fights and corruption here. I felt very sad to see such a plight, but there are some good people, who are engaged in their service like- Mukhtar Engle, Hassan.
A meeting was held under my leadership to ensure that the Somalian and Kenyan communities get water according to their rights and justice.
Here I sat with both Kenyan and Somalian communities,trying to make them reach an agreement so that both can get water. We are guests of Kenya, yet the chief of the Somalian community, the district chief, also accept us here.
Good talks took place between the two communities till late night on December 3, 2021. People from both the communities participated in this meeting. During this water budgeting of Habis river was done and process of identification of site for construction of water infrastructure is going on. Water works will improve the condition of the people here. It is pleasant to get the positive response of people.
Thereafter we marked the site of the water structure on the Harsha Ben River.
This article is also available in Hindi. Click the link to read it in Hindi: केन्या-सोमालिया का विवादित हबसवें: हर तरफ मरे जानवरों की बदबू के बीच भूखे-प्यासे लोग
After that we left for Garissa University, 250 kms from Habaswein. In the wilderness we could see ruins of villages on the way for miles. Not a single person was seen. All the people from here have moved to different places, some people have started living in a refugee camp located 20 km from here. It was very sad to see these ruined houses. Here too we found copses of the dead cows.
We crossed two small town on our way to Garissa University – Maggamdadit and Lokobola. Both are devastated and the condition of the animals there is also very bad. It looks desolate, deserted all around here.
In this university, we had a meeting with the Vice Chancellor, Professors, Dean, Registrar, and many others. University professors asked me how can we save people from this disaster? How can this serious crisis be dealt with? Then I told my experiences of Rajasthan through presentation. Everyone considered it a practical work.
Everyone in the university looked very worried. These people said that the government or international organizations are not coming forward to see this desolation because 147 students and teachers were attacked and killed in this school in 2015. Therefore, there are only very few students and teachers in the university remaining here.
People from the countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya live in this disputed region of Kenya. They are all cattle herders. This area is in a worse condition than the old desert in our India. There was enough to eat here earlier, but now the condition of all the animals here is very serious. If there is no rain here in the next 10 to 15 days, then all the animals here will die.
There was a very serious discussion on such a bad situation. The dispute over the river water was settled here with the head, chief, government officials, some prominent people of the community. Hope the work on this will start soon. This will bring back water, and indeed a ray of hope appears.
*The author is a recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize and a well-known environmentalist.