The lake also forms a physical barrier between the Turkana and ethnic groups inhabiting the other shores.
To the Turkana County Government
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A broad range of interviewees was sought, including men and women of different ages and livelihoods. However, 30 of the 40 interviewees were men. In addition to interviews, Human Rights Watch consulted various secondary materials, including academic articles and reports from nongovernmental organizations, which provide further insight into human rights issues in Turkana.
This material includes previous Human Rights Watch research as well as information collected by other credible experts and independent researchers. An external technical expert reviewed an earlier draft of this report. However, this report is not a comprehensive assessment of the environmental and climate change threats to local communities in Turkana County.
Such an assessment would require more in-depth qualitative and quantitative investigation, including in southern and western Turkana County, as well as mathematical modeling of multiple climate change scenarios. Human rights bodies, scientific experts, governments, and civil society have recognized that worldwide, climate change is having, and will continue to have, a devastating impact on the ability of people to enjoy their basic human rights and the capacity of governments to fulfill their obligations to realize those rights.
While there is scientific consensus about global trends related to climate change, modeling and forecasting future changes in climate, particularly in specific regions and sub-regions of the world, is by its very nature complex and subject to some degree of uncertainty.
These uncertainties result from a wide range of factors, including limited climate data and the challenge of evaluating the dynamics of complex interacting systems. Countries in the global South, which are least responsible for climate change, are predicted to experience its most severe effects. Recognizing these risks, the UN Human Rights Council and other human rights bodies have adopted resolutions and issued statements highlighting the implications of climate change for the full enjoyment of human rights.
Scientists believe Africa will be one of the continents most vulnerable to climate change, with average temperatures expected to increase throughout this century, and with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics. The IPCC report also emphasized that climate change will cause economic growth to slow.
According to the IPCC and other scientific studies, the African continent is already experiencing the effects of climate change in many regions. In addition to direct effects from heat stress attributed to climate change, scientific studies show that recurring drought and food insecurity can have indirect effects on health. According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, climate change has already altered the distribution of some disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks that have an active role in transmitting a pathogen from one host to another, and which carry a range of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, spotted fever rickettsioses, and Rift Valley fever.
Severe weather events and flooding may also affect health directly by injury or death, and indirectly by contaminating water supplies or destroying water delivery and wastewater systems. Research by UNICEF suggests that climate change will have a significant impact on the health of children through increases in vector and waterborne diseases, and as a result of rising food prices and conflicts over resources.
As recognized by the IPCC, changes in climate and the resulting changes in disease patterns, poverty eradication, conflict and food security, have significant implications for access to water, food and health in Africa.
African regional institutions have long highlighted the vulnerability of African states to the effects of climate change. Starting in , the African Union has passed a number of resolutions expressing concern about the impact of climate change and the ability of countries to respond to its consequences. It has a semi-arid to arid climate and is among the poorest counties in the country.
The constitution addressed public concerns about the concentration of power in the presidency by introducing a devolved system of government. County governments were established after the March general elections. Under the new structure, 47 county governments around Kenya have semi-autonomous status from the central government in order to address the inequitable distribution of resources that stemmed from centralization in the past.
Some functions critical for the lives of the Turkana, including provision of health and education services, have been devolved to the county level. Considerable ambiguity exists between national and county levels of government over other functions of importance to the Turkana, including security and natural resource management.
The region encompassing Turkana County, the Lower Omo River valley, and the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, is globally renowned as the cradle of mankind: Archeologists working in the region have found here the oldest ancestors to modern humans. Despite resistance, the British colonized the area in the s and forced the Turkana to settle in the area now known as Turkana County.
After the Second World War, the colonial administration segregated the Turkana people by categorizing Turkana Province, as it was known under colonial rule, as a closed district, and enforced a strict disarmament of the Turkana people. After independence, there was increased development in Turkana, but antagonistic relations and cattle raiding between the Turkana and their neighbors continued. Insecurity, combined with two severe droughts in the early s, further inhibited development efforts in the region.
In the Kenyan national government devolved some government functions to county governments. This change provided opportunities for the Turkana to have more control over local policymaking and the allocation of resources, but the county continues to be underdeveloped and politically marginalized, ranking as one of the poorest counties in Kenya.
While the lake is critical for livelihoods, water in the lake is largely unfit for human consumption due to high salinity levels. People in Turkana rely mostly on water from seasonal rivers for drinking and domestic uses, often accessing it by digging in dry riverbeds, but also collecting water from springs, boreholes, and the near-perennial Turkwel River.
Populations within Turkana County concentrate around the main transport route, which enters Turkana County from Kitale and West Pokot and connects the principal market towns of Lokichar, Lodwar, Kakuma and Lokichogio, and along the Turkwel River coming from West Pokot, and crossing the main transport route at Lodwar, heading east into Lake Turkana. The Turkana identify themselves as indigenous peoples. In March , the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples noted that indigenous peoples have contributed little to climate change, but they suffer the worst impacts globally.
As a result, certain areas may experience extreme high intensity rainfall, while the overall annual rainfall remains neutral or even decreases slightly. Regional scientific studies have found increases in mean surface temperatures, and changes in precipitation extremes during the past 30 to 60 years. Despite these findings, it remains difficult for scientists to predict future long-term effects of climate change in the East Africa region, in part because there is insufficient historical data of climate patterns.
Many of these extreme climate events have led to displacement of communities and migration of pastoralists into and out of the country resulting in conflicts over natural resources. Slow-onset events associated with climate change also lead to competition over scarce resources resulting in human-wildlife conflicts. Other climate change impacts include widespread disease epidemics, sea-level rise, and depletion of glaciers on Mount Kenya.
Over the past several years, Ethiopia has embarked on a massive plan for dams, water-intensive irrigated cotton and sugar plantations, and irrigation canals and other infrastructure in the Omo River Basin, which provides 90 percent of the water in Lake Turkana.
If these predictions are accurate, areas of Lake Turkana with high levels of biological productivity that are critical for fish spawning and rearing will dry up, with devastating impacts on the fishery.
In addition, dramatic reductions in freshwater inputs from the Omo River into Lake Turkana, and increased evaporation rates from higher average air temperatures, will increase levels of salinity in the lake, also harming fish stocks. Changes to Lake Turkana will impact the environment far beyond its shores.
The lake has a significant cooling effect on the region, regulating temperatures and precipitation, and preventing desertification. In , as a result of a lawsuit filed by the NGO Friends of Lake Turkana, the Kenyan High Court ruled that the government is required to make public all relevant information in relation to the importation, purchase, and transmission of electricity from Ethiopia.
As of September 15, , it has yet to comply with this decision. Questions about the long-term sustainability of the aquifer, including how quickly the aquifer would replenish itself after water has been extracted, have also been raised.
The pastoralists and fishers in Turkana County interviewed by Human Rights Watch painted a picture of a population struggling to survive in an inhospitable climate, ill-equipped to adapt to increasing changes in climate and livelihoods and receiving little support from government or civil society. They stated that changes in climate are already having a significant impact on their welfare in multiple ways. In combination with rapid population growth and industrial development, climate change is exacerbating the already significant challenges the Turkana face in securing sufficient water, food, health and security.
In Turkana, access to water for consumption, basic household needs, and livestock is critical for the lives and livelihoods of the Turkana people. However, growing water demand brought on by population growth, unpredictable rainy seasons and longer and more regular droughts have put increased pressure on water resources in recent years. In addition, the predicted drop in the water level of Lake Turkana could have a major impact on water availability for years to come.
One elder living near Lake Turkana described his reliance on the lake in times of drought. Traditionally, in times of drought, many pastoralist communities dig in dry riverbeds for water. However, communities now report longer and more severe droughts. As a result, they must dig deeper, but still may not find water. In one pastoral community a woman who was nine months pregnant, told Human Rights Watch of the 18 kilometer round-trip she had to walk, sometimes twice daily, in order to get water during the dry season from a riverbed where she could dig for water.
The small stream adjacent to the village supplied water only during the short rainy season. Kenya is bound under international law to progressively realize the right to water and sanitation of its citizens, using available resources in a non-discriminatory manner.
Derived from a number of other rights guaranteed by international human rights law and complemented by more recent international human rights treaties explicitly recognizing the importance of water and sanitation, the general comment states that:. Because climate change can increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as drought or flooding, it can have a negative impact on the availability, accessibility, and quality of water.
When economic resources are limited, government obligation to progressively realize the human right to water requires States to plan adaptation measures. International human rights law also imposes obligations on states that are of immediate effect. The obligation to address the right to water in a way that is participatory, accountable and non-discriminatory is an immediately binding duty.
Lack of access to potable water has a broad impact on all segments of society, but it disproportionately affects some populations. In , Kenya, along with other counties, voted in the UN General Assembly to recognize a freestanding right to water, derived from the legal framework laid out in General Comment They pointed out that this has a variety of consequences for herders and can have self-reinforcing negative effects.
The acute physical strain on livestock created by the lack of water and adequate grazing land makes livestock weaker and more prone to disease, and less suitable for production of milk, one of the staples of the Turkana diet. Prolonged dry seasons lead to reductions in livestock numbers and less resilient livestock, to lower rates of milk production, and to reduced birthing rates. Diminishing access to grazing land and water also push the Turkana into increased conflict over remaining resources, which can lead to loss of livestock from raids by other ethnic groups.
In several interviews mothers told us about losing their children to starvation. Parents expressed hopelessness while describing the challenges in accessing enough food to feed themselves and their children.
They said that the death of their livestock put an extra burden on households that traditionally rely in part on meat and milk for sustenance. Community members routinely cited hunger and malnutrition as among the most severe challenges they face.
While food insecurity has plagued Turkana for generations, Human Rights Watch interviews with people in Turkana indicated that the changing climate is exacerbating this already tenuous situation. The reported patterns of unpredictable rainfall and increased drought will continue to reduce the grazing lands and limited water sources necessary for dry season livestock herding.
This will further compound existing food insecurity for a growing population that is largely reliant on adequate grazing lands and water for its livestock. The other critical livelihood in Turkana is fishing. Water level drops of between 13 and 22 meters because of decreased freshwater inputs from the Omo River are predicted to reduce the lake volume by 42 to 59 percent, and lake shorelines will recede.
The reduction of natural floods by the construction of dams will diminish the signal for fish breeding. Fishing is also critical for many pastoral communities. Pastoralists migrate to Lake Turkana to fish or engage in other economic transactions with fishers when livestock have been lost from prolonged periods of drought or from raids.
Income from fishing is a critical alternative source of income to pastoralists to mitigate the impact of these losses. Threats to Lake Turkana affect the ability of pastoralists to use the lake as a buffer against the increased periods of drought that decimate their livestock herds.
The lake also forms a physical barrier between the Turkana and ethnic groups inhabiting the other shores. Its loss will likely make the area less secure. Moreover, states have a core obligation to take the necessary action to mitigate and alleviate hunger as provided for in article 11 2 , even in times of natural or other disasters. Food insecurity in Turkana is not a new issue, and the government has long had an obligation to deploy available resources to progressively realize the right to adequate food.
However, based on existing climate modeling, climate change is likely to add additional stressors on food security such as increased temperatures and shifted rainfall patterns that may be less favorable for livestock herding and agriculture. Although some pastoralists and fishers interviewed by Human Rights Watch were aware that there may be changes to the lake due to developments in the Omo River valley, no one we spoke with was aware of any government plan or action about alternative means of livelihood.
The World Health Organization WHO has estimated that climate change will cause , additional deaths globally each year between and Scientific studies have found that the impact of climate change on health and life expectancy in Africa include direct effects from heat stress and indirect effects from the shifting epidemiology of diseases, such as West Nile fever, dengue, malaria, and yellow fever.
Diseases that are waterborne, or relate to poor sanitation stemming from lack of water, are also likely to be influenced by climate change, increasing risks of cholera and typhoid outbreaks and greater rates of diarrhea and trachoma.
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. One study in Kenya found a relationship between trends in climate since rising temperatures and declining rainfall and childhood stunting, which is an indicator for childhood malnutrition. Turkana has had a long history of chronic malnutrition and some of the poorest health indicators in Kenya, with minimal health investment and infrastructure, staff, and services for its largely mobile pastoralist population, all of which is exacerbated by a growing population.
Parents told Human Rights Watch about a wide range of illness that they and their children suffered, including stomach aches and diarrhea, malaria, malnutrition and trachoma. They said that these illnesses were worse with the most recent droughts, and that when community members are sick they often have to walk long distances to reach a medical clinic. At a health clinic we visited, the assistant health worker told us about chronic malnutrition in the surrounding communities and the difficulties of having one under-resourced health clinic serve a geographically dispersed population.
Jane Ajele, the Turkana County Minister of Health, acknowledged the problems identified by the parents and the impact of the current drought and climate change. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, she highlighted trachoma, a bacterial eye disease that is transmitted from person to person or through clothing or flies, as of particular concern, with rising incidence resulting from decreased availability of water for hand and face washing.
The Constitution of Kenya guarantees every Kenyan the right to the highest attainable standard of health. As part of its obligations under the right to health, the Kenyan government needs to take action to address the acceleration of malnutrition and disease that is in part a result of climate change.
In Turkana, access to dry season grazing land and water drives conflict between pastoralist communities, including between the Turkana and the Pokot, and near the Ethiopian border, between the Turkana and the Daasanach. While conflict between Turkana and Daasanach is long standing, local communities on the Western shores of Lake Turkana, including in Nachukule, told us they fear the raids will be more frequent.
Human Rights Watch visited one Turkana community in both early and late On our second visit, we found that the community had moved 20 kilometers south after having been displaced from their dry season grazing lands due to cattle raids by the Dassanach. One of the displaced pastoralists told Human Rights Watch:. According to those Human Rights Watch interviewed, armed Daasanach herders took the majority of the cattle and dry season grazing lands with little resistance, and the Turkana community turned to fishing in Lake Turkana for their livelihoods.
Kenyan security posts along the border, understaffed and under resourced, had little ability to stop the more heavily armed Dassanach. The state has a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure the security of its citizens. However, the Kenya government has taken few proactive steps to protect Turkana residents from Daasanach raids. The February deployment of marine police on the lake is a step in the right direction although it is not clear how effective their operations have been.
Such a security operation needs to be properly resourced and given a clear mandate. Jane Ajele, acknowledged the impact of climate change on the county and its effects on the ability to realize the rights of pastoralists.
The deputy governor highlighted concern over the future of Lake Turkana and how the shrinking of the lake will affect both pastoralists and fishers. He told Human Rights Watch:. Moe, the County Executive for the Ministry of Water Service, Irrigation and Agriculture, cited the history of underinvestment in the region and the difficulty of coordinating a response between the county government, the national government and humanitarian and religious actors:.
As a part of a constitutionally mandated process of decentralization, the Turkana County government assumed authority in with responsibility for the development and welfare of the Turkana County population. County governments are responsible for county legislation outlined in the Constitution. The Turkana County government has set ambitious plans to expand the number of health facilities and personnel, increase access to education, and address widespread food and water insecurity. She said that the government had doubled the number of health facilities in each ward, from 30 to 60 facilities in the entire county.
At the same time, she said that the county was struggling to staff the new facilities. Ajele estimated that the county needed an additional 1, health personnel. When asked specifically about plans to address climate change and its impact on the Turkana people, the government officials Human Rights Watch spoke with acknowledged the importance of the issue, but cited few concrete programs or actions taken by the Turkana government to prepare for its impact.
Addressing climate-related insecurity, the deputy governor said:.