How the drought affects women

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 11:38

As the drought worsens in Northern Kenya, its effects become more pronounced on women and girls.

Water scarcity compromises hygiene especially for girls and women as the little water available is prioritised for drinking and cooking. Women and girls have to walk longer distances fetch water, either on their backs or weak donkeys - in some areas they walk for eight to ten hours to the closest water source. Girls are being withdrawn from school to support their mothers in taking care of young siblings or fetching water.

Since men have migrated away with the livestock in search of pasture and water, women have been left behind with all family responsibilities and very little in terms of resources such as livestock. They are therefore forced to engage in petty trade to put food on the table. For those close to big towns prostitution is an option for women and girls, exposing them to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. As women and girls walk in the bushes in search of water, they are also exposed to the possibility of rape by marauding bandits.

Culturally women also cannot make any decision to sell or even slaughter small livestock for food, and they have to wait for the men who have moved far away with the rest of the livestock and therefore hard to reach.

ActionAid’s planned response includes diversified livelihood support for women, water trucking, relief supply, and cash for assets among others. This is in addition to food and water supplies, and fuel and parts for boreholes. To help communities get back on their feet as soon as possible we'll also be providing seeds and farm tools so people can plant in anticipation of the next rainy season.