Food insecurity, diseases, the true cost of climate change

A water vendor fetching tapped water. Many parts of Kenya have had acute water shortage due to consecutive dry seasons. PHOTO/ Courtesy.
A water vendor fetching tapped water. Many parts of Kenya have had acute water shortage due to consecutive dry seasons. PHOTO/ Courtesy.

The persistent absence of sufficient rain in Kenya for the past several seasons continues to have more effects on humans.

In Kiambu County, it has caused most residential areas to become dusty, and the soil particles and germs blown into the air by the persistent wind exacerbate respiratory issues. 

Allergies and irritation of the respiratory system and eyes are particularly common and affect people of all ages because of their contagiousness.

Another anticipated dry season, as predicted by the weatherman, is not going to heal the situation because of the current hard economy and water constraints. 

Failed rains

According to the forecast, March through May might experience another extended dry spell with below-average rainfall.

The sixth consecutive failed rainy season is predicted to be marked by high temperatures and a depressed lack of precipitation across larger portions of Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

This was revealed at the 63rd Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 63) conference held on February 22, 2023, in Nairobi.

Yet, ignoring the natural disaster, recent protests by various activists over the high cost of living have also made doctors point out that these diseases are spreading because residents of low-income districts in Thika have weakened immune systems.

If not for the breeze, then the greenery surrounding the dusty apartments makes St. Theresa’s Community Clinic more appealing. 

Inside, there are clean, mahogany waiting benches, and the setting is peaceful.

When the estate heat becomes unbearable, many inhabitants in this region choose to leave the complex and relax outside the clinic’s compound. 

According to nurse Mediatris Muruka, the clinic even pumps water into the tank to cool it and maintain its condition from the overburning heat.

Their reports show an alarming rise in respiratory illnesses, and the flu and diarrhea are getting more common. 

According to the nurse, most people go to bed hungry due to poor eating, which impairs their immune systems’ ability even to battle minor diseases.

Worst dry season

In comparison to previous dry seasons, this one has only gotten worse. 

Earlier dry seasons, at least, had some cushion from water reservoirs around Nairobi that kept a steady supply. 

Dry river Chania. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Dry river Chania. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Still, with the drying up of River Chania, a major water supply in Thika and its surroundings, water supply has become inconsistent, and densely populated living areas are being hit the hardest. 

The Thika Water and Sewerage Company (THIWASCO) provides water to more than 300,000 people.

More infections

Respiratory infections are steadily on the rise, forcing the majority of populations to rely on over-the-counter medications to survive. 

When a school-aged child contracts the flu from another student, they are more likely to spread it to other family members when they return home because it is contagious, making everyone dependent on drug use. 

What’s worse, according to nurse Muruka, is the low immunity of the locals who decide to pay their rent and keep a roof over their heads rather than monitor their food consumption. 

They are also the most severely affected by these diseases due to the worsening effects of climate change. 

According to her, these are old diseases that, as a nation, we can no longer classify as disasters, but they are gradually re-catching up with Kenyans.

“If you are not feeding well, definitely you are not healthy. There are so many people around here who haven’t eaten since yesterday; it is that bad,” the nurse clarified in an interview with Scholar Media. 

Many of the residents resort to buying drugs over the counter, especially at commercial chemists. 

They are afraid to approach private entities because they can barely afford a decent meal; decent healthcare is more of a luxury around this place.

Increased cholera cases

Government agencies are left to manage such cases because small community clinics, which frequently provide the most in terms of community outreach, particularly among the majority of Thika residents, cannot handle the increasing cholera cases. 

This new season has already seen a severe cholera outbreak in 12 areas.

This year, an extreme case outbreak started in Kajiado, Kiambu, Meru, Muranga, Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Garissa, Tana River, Wajir, Nakuru, Nyeri, and Machakos. 

Communities without access to clean, safe drinking water are more at risk; thus, it’s a severe blow.

A close examination of the regions suffering from diseases linked to the recent climate change reveals that the majority of these locations depend on rivers in the Mount Kenya region, most of which are dry, most recently the River Chania. 

Even though there is a renewed emphasis on agriculture to increase food production, the major sources of income for the country are rapidly declining as the rivers that are supposed to supply agricultural water are rapidly drying up. 

Entrance to St. Teresa Medical Clinic in Kiambu county. Health facilities are receiving more cholera cases from the public. PHOTO/Courtesy.
Entrance to St. Teresa Medical Clinic in Kiambu county. Health facilities are receiving more cholera cases from the public. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The warnings are loud and clear: if the circumstances don’t change, our nation will face numerous crises in the near future.

Even the most mysterious water sources in the area of Kiambu, which has long been renowned for its lush flora and continuously running rivers, are drying up for the third time—aside from in 1984 and 2009—worsening the drought and food shortage conditions as more residences continue to be built.

People’s actions

Because of the long-lasting ecology, the constituencies of Gatanda and Gatundu North have played a significant upstream role in relieving the thirst of numerous downstream residents in difficult times. 

The once-iconic water source has become a dry spring surrounded by boulders, losing its once-calm flow. 

Millions of people have been adversely affected by the lack of water in the areas surrounding Ruiru, Karimenu, Ndarugo, Githobokoni, Githoito, Komothai, and other locations. 

David Kuria, a Kiambu County Executive Committee member responsible for water, environment, and natural resources observed that human actions like deforestation, wetlands encroachment, and excessive carbon generation must have sped up the recent changes in climatic conditions.

“In our setup nowadays, families have three to four vehicles, all of which either burn gasoline or diesel fuel creating some harmful products such as carbon monoxide among others which largely contribute to environmental degradation,” Kuria clarified to one of the news sources.

Ewaso Nyiro River is only one of the many rivers that have come dangerously close to drying up over the past six months. 

In Murang’a, over ten main rivers that local residents utilize for domestic reasons have diminished in recent years. 

Bridges that once threatened life from swollen rivers have been made redundant because most rivers can now be crossed by simply hopping over bedrock.

The impact of climate change on daily human activity is only beginning, with issues ranging from a lack of clean water to food shortages and diseases. 

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Concerted efforts a must to contain the fangs of climate change

Three months after the cholera outbreak that began the year, we are now dealing with dangerous respiratory infections due to a food crisis.

Evidently, immediate action is required to stop these changes from occurring due to the climatic shifts.

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