The devastating effects of a drought caused by the delayed long rains from March to April caused more than 6,000 shepherds in Loima, Turkana West, to flee to Karamoja in northern Uganda in search of pastures.
Mr. George Nawi from Nanaam Village was among them.
After some of his goats died from a lack of water and pasture, he was no longer able to stay in Kenya to see his sheep, cattle, donkeys and camels die as well.
He and others crossed the Kotido district in Uganda.
“While we were there, some of my animals became sick because of the high concentration of animals in the pastures and watering holes,” said Mr Nawi, adding that the situation was making his problems worse.
He said he primarily relied on traditional methods of treating farm animals, especially his donkeys, which suffered from debilitating diseases.
Fortunately, it started raining at home in May, resulting in too much pasture.
Most of the shepherds immediately returned home via the Loima border corridor.
But once they got home, another disaster struck.
In the villages of Nanaam and Namoruputh in particular, numerous donkeys died, which caused the residents to panic.
Mr Lokodo Kamunyen from Namoruputh Village said that at least five donkeys died there just days after returning from Uganda.
To prevent the spread of the unknown disease, the Turkana County government has launched a vaccination campaign against most of the known diseases that affect the animals, especially in pasture areas.
In collaboration with the Agency for Cross Border Pastoralists Development and Brooke Kenya, the county is now vaccinating donkeys against colic, helminthiasis, trypanosomiasis, mange, rabies, wounds and abscesses.
Deputy District Director for Veterinary Services Jane Akale said more than 200 donkeys were treated in the two affected villages, with at least 3,000 targeted along the border.
She said the treatment was part of the county’s strategy to step up livestock disease surveillance after shepherds reported the deaths of their donkeys.
“Ongoing treatment will prevent the spread of disease to abandoned donkeys. The campaign began in Nanaam along the Mogila Mountains near the border with South Sudan and in Namoruputh on the border between Kenya and Uganda, ”said Dr. Akale, adding that these were the hardest hit areas.
Sam Kimeli, director of the Agency for the Development of Cross-Border Pastoralists, said the vaccination was aimed at increasing the donkey population in the county.
Treating donkeys, he said, is one of the organization’s critical activities aimed at ensuring donkey welfare.
“In Turkana, donkeys are considered work animals; their value and contribution are not to be underestimated. That is why we used them specifically so that they continue to provide work and transport to the locals along the border, ”he said.
Dorcas Ing’olan, whose donkeys benefited from the vaccination campaign, said their animals had been dewormed and those with wounds and abscesses had been treated.
“I’ve learned that we contribute to most wounds in donkeys, especially when we pierce their noses to tie ropes. We have been advised not to pierce them and have shown us better ways to rope them on if we can want to use the transport, “said Ms. Ing. said olan.
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District Pastoral Economics Director Philip Aemun said they had obtained Sh36 million worth of drugs for the treatment of livestock in all seven Turkana subdistricts.
The vaccines have been delivered to all cold chains in the subdistricts.
He found that the prolonged drought, which had forced herdsmen to migrate to new areas in search of water and pastures, made their cattle susceptible to disease.
“We have decentralized the supply of vital medicines to improve early preparation and timely response to disease outbreaks and to ensure effective disease control in the affected areas,” said Aemun.
These investments in animal health are part of strategies to improve food security.