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Brief, Heavy Rains No Cure For Kenyan Drought

Brief but heavy rains have hit drought-stricken parts of Kenya. But aid agencies are warning the drought is not over and that the rains will make the situation temporarily worse.

Doug Keatinge is an emergency specialist for the aid organization OXFAM who has just returned from touring northeastern Kenya. From Oxford, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about short-term problems caused by the recent rains:

“The sort of challenges we’re now facing is large groups of people, pastoralist communities, who’ve moved into crowded urban centers. Now there are threats of diseases, particularly water-borne diseases like malaria, cholera – threats of those taking place. Also, obviously we’re trying to deliver food aid into very remote regions along what were bone-dry dusty tracks. Those are now turning into impassable muddy roads where food assistance can’t be delivered along.”

Recently, when rains came to one of Kenya’s game parks, animals gorged themselves on new grass and many died as a result. Keatinge says that’s a concern now as well.

“There are two concerns in relation to the animals. Yes, you will get animals gorging on this wet, fresh grass and their frail stomachs simply can’t cope with it. This awful situation takes place where they die of bloated or exploded stomachs. We also have a situation where very frail and emaciated animals, there is immediate rain, it gets cold at night and as you can imagine might be the case for a human, they get very cold and many of them die of exposure. We’re in a situation where in the northeast of Kenya 70 percent of the cattle are already dead. And the concern is that this recent rain could wipe out the remaining cattle and leave people whose livelihoods are already shattered in an even more destitute situation," he says.