Kenya drought: how a community network was best placed to step in
A DEPP project enabled a local group to tackle a crisis
"More outside aid is required to boost the efforts of PACIDA and other like-minded organisations,” says Yattani Chachu from Koronder village in northern Kenya.
The humanitarian system has many layers and structures attached to it, and operates in areas where a policy of one size fits all does not work. It is important to invest in capacity at all levels of the humanitarian system and not just at the headquarters level. Local organisations often operate in areas that international NGO’s cannot get to, and where governments may not have the scope.
In February 2017, UN OCHA reported that 12.8 million individuals in four East African countries were experiencing acute levels of food insecurity and needed humanitarian assistance because of drought. Kenya is one of the countries affected by the drought. The Shifting the Power project in Kenya has worked to provide timely and effective response, and influenced the authorities at various levels to take action. One organisation, the Pastoralist Community Initiative and Development Assistance (PACIDA), has shown how local actors are the pillars of a more balanced humanitarian system. The Shifting the Power project strongly supports the localisation of aid, by sustaining organisations like PACIDA so that they are better able to to address emergencies.
In October 2016, after receiving many distress calls from the communities in Marsabit county, PACIDA and Caritas Marsabit influenced the county government and National Drought Management Authority to conduct a drought rapid assessment. PACIDA also used the media and field visits to the hardest-hit areas to highlight the severity of the drought situation. In addition, PACIDA is regularly broadcasting a radio talk show to help to assess the quality of the continuing responses and to gather feedback from the community. The programme is a tool for local communities to hold the government accountable on the quality of its humanitarian response.
Where the needs are most acute, PACIDA has also worked to alleviate the suffering inflicted by the drought. As of March 2017, PACIDA distributed 2,670 tonnes of food supplies, 3 million litres of trucked water and 17,500 litres of fuel.
Yattani Chachu, now in Koronder village in the North Horr district of Marsabit, said:
“We moved to Koronder in November 2016 as soon as we realised all pasture and browse were depleting to a startling degree. Soon everyone started migrating to Koronder as it was deemed a pasture rich area. Because of the huge livestock population in Koronder, the few livestock water sources dried up in December 2016. We have since been depending on well-wishers to assist us, but the poor road network leading to our village is a challenge.
“The County Government of Marsabit brought us water in mid-January this year and we were very grateful, but we have not seen them since. It was anticipated that by the time they come back, it would be after two or three weeks and by which time our animals would have died, and human beings would have died of thirst and hunger. It is hard to survive in this situation. In this crisis, PACIDA has been supporting us with their water trucking interventions which made things better. While the county government is trying to alleviate the drought, they are over- stretched considering the county is very vast.”
PACIDA’s interventions during the emergency championed key issues that affect local communities, established strong feedback mechanisms at the community level, and built collaboration with local government. PACIDA’s approach has ensured that communities affected by disasters are not excluded or considered as simple beneficiaries of humanitarian actions, and the organisation has reached some of the communities that were most impacted by the drought.
As emergencies become more complex and severe, the need to have local people and organisations that know the environment and have the skills to respond is becoming ever greater. The Shifting the Power project is one of the 14 DFID-funded projects of the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme. It works through members like PACIDA, this contributing to a more balanced, effective and locally-relevant humanitarian system in Kenya and elsewhere.