Duda Ousman, 60, Dambas Wajir. Photo Credit: Joy Obuya

Coping with the drought in Wajir: Story of Duda Ousman

Nothingness! That is what it looks like now, but the stillness around it speaks volumes. Our driver stops and shows us the exact spot the Wagalla Massacre took place. There is an immediate somberness in the car as he quickly drives on. We are on our way to Dambas a small village 80kms from Wajir town.

Once we pull up, locals automatically gravitate towards us.  A crowd forms.

 A crowd is normal around here; I have made peace with it.

It is a quiet village mostly; only the women and old men are left behind. The younger ones have either gone to school or off to graze their fathers’ goats and camels.

Some women are seated in their bomas others are rolling their water jerry cans (Mtungi) to their homesteads. Women here don’t carry the water Mtungi on their heads they roll them using their feet, it’s easier to move it around that way.

The old men sit under the shade of the only tree that has some semblance of life. It stands out like an oasis in the desert. Some few branches still have some green leaves on them. The men communicate in hushed tones.

 Drought has an ugly face.

Oxfam is giving emergency cash assistance to communities affected by the drought  in Wajir. The cash assistance is transferred through the Hunger safety Net program (HSNP) system. This has enabled humanitarian actors to give aid when it is needed and  to the people who need it the most in a transparent and accountable manner. The cash transfers also give beneficiaries the flexibility to address their immediate needs which vary from household to household.

I walk up to Duba Ousman. She nods her head in the form of a greeting. She has that motherly look, a very infectious smile. She is warm.  She is also old and very beautiful. She has aged gracefully.

Duba pulls her snort.  She explains it is because she has been unwell and she was only able to visit the clinic, when her HSNP card was loaded this month.

Duba is a sixty-year-old mother of ten; she has seven grandchildren, all of whom she takes care of. Due to the drought in the region, her children have all gone out to look for pasture for their livestock. Leaving her to take care of their children. They have been away for almost six months.  

“The current drought has lasted for nearly two years. Worst I have ever experienced. It keeps getting worse. I do not know how we will survive.”  - She begins.

She is a recipient of the emergency cash transfer programme where she receives Ksh.2, 700 monthly. She uses the money to buy food and water. She has a cow in her homestead that was left behind from the herd – it’s malnourished it can no longer produce milk. 

“Milk is a luxury,’ - she says. ‘My grandchildren have not had milk for the last four months. We buy a lot of water… Pause… “Water is life!”

She goes quiet and shakes her head as if in deep thought, She points at some people in the crowd.

“ Some of these people are my neighbors but not all of them are recipients of the cash transfer, so I share the money with them, I buy some of them food at the same time feeding my family”

 The family uses approximately 6-7 20 liter jerry cans of water every two days. She has a big family. Her husband stays home because he is elderly. In every aspect she is the breadwinner.

 I ask her if any of her kids have the ability to help her. She tells me her eldest used to send money but since he started his own family he has not been able to assist them. At this point two of her grandkids join us, they sit right at her feet and keep shifting glances between their grandmother and us.

I look at them and hope that they will never forget the kind of sacrifice their grandmother has made over the years.

Emergency drought response

Oxfam in Kenya through financial support from European Union humanitarian aid, Disaster Emergency Committee, UNICEF and Oxfam Hong Kong is giving cash assistance of KES 2,700 (€ 22 ) per month for seven months to 3001 households in Wajir County. 169,385 people are also accessing clean safe water for domestic and livestock use through our technical support to Wajir Water Services Company (WAJIWASCO) and the Ministry of Water. Oxfam aims to reach 450,000 people in Wajir County by June 2018 with the much needed assistance to enable affected communities cope with the effects of the drought. 

Written by Cynthia Wanjiru- Eyeris Communications