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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

STORIES FROM NORTH EASTERN KENYA

THE STORY OF THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE FROM KENYA

Arabia is a Kenyan village, in the Mandera district in the north-east of Kenya. It is home to Ramla Yusuf a 45-year-old widow, mother of five and grandmother of six.

“I was born, raised and married in this village, “said Ramla. Her husband was a semi-nomadic pastoralist who raised livestock, like most people in the region,

He also ran a small shop, selling sugar, tea leaves and other foodstuffs. After his death 12 years ago, Ramla took over the shop and also opened a tea kiosk, known locally as a ‘hotel’.The income from her small business enabled her to send four of her five orphans to school.
Water Worries
In this arid region, water has always been a concern for the villagers of Arabia. They relied on a small water pan for part of the year, but it would dry up after the rains.
When an intense drought struck in 2006, the only source of water was the government borehole.

“During the drought there was no water in the pan, so we were using the borehole water. But it is very salty,” said Ramla. “It caused a lot of health problems, like high blood pressure, diarrhoea and stomach ache. But there was no other water for drinking, cooking, washing and the animals.”

Impoverished by the drought, villagers also struggled to buy diesel to run the borehole pump.

Livestock

The drought killed over 70% of the livestock in the region, including more than half of Ramla’s goats. Only 30 of her herd of 80 animals survived.

“We were affected by drought and we couldn’t get milk or meat. There were shortages in food, but thankfully the children did not go hungry,” said Ramla, holding her grandson, Mohammed, in her lap.

Business at Ramla’s shop also slowed down and has not recovered since.
Arabia Water Pan.

During the drought Islamic Relief (IR) provided emergency food, water and malnutrition treatment in the region. However, Arabia needed a permanent solution to its water problems.
IR decided to enlarge and improve the existing water pan in Arabia. This involved digging out a large reservoir and well, and creating a filtration system. Once the project is complete people will be able to collect clean water from the well and the area will be fenced off to prevent animals from polluting the water.

Health and Sanitation Committee.

IR also trained and equipped Arabia’s Village Health Committee. They received equipment such as wheelbarrows, spades and large garbage bins to help them with their regular clean-ups.
The Committee sprays the latrines to control insects, and encourages villagers to use the newly dug waste pits for garbage disposal instead of throwing it elsewhere.

The Committee also organises weekly ‘clean-ups’, where members clean the main roads while villagers are responsible for cleaning their own compounds and surrounding areas.

“We have seen a lot of improvements in health,” said Ramla, who is a member of the Health Committee. “Previously there were many outbreaks of diseases and children often suffered from malaria, diarrhoea, and stomach-aches. Now all those things have gone.

We used to have a lot of cockroaches and flies too but there are fewer now that we have sprayed. It is a good thing and it has benefited us.”

Children of Arabia.

“I would like my grandchildren to grow up and have good jobs - as teachers, doctors or any good job. Most people in Arabia are poor,” says Ramla, “Some have dropped out of pastoralism and there are no large businesses or farms here, so you can imagine the life.

I would like to wish [IR supporters] peace, wherever they are. There are many people here affected by the drought, a lot of poor people and orphans.

People should help them, especially the orphans. In many families you will find that the mother survives while the father dies, and only God cares.”