10 Jan 2006

Dying Like..... Cows

My usual Xmas safari work brought me into contact with the vicious drought ravaging most of Kenya. The Maasai Mara National Reserve was bone dry, with Cape Buffalo beginning to show tell-tale ribs and pelvis bones. They are the first to die off in a drought. However, there is ample grazing in the Mara for Maasai tribal herds, if needed. Yet the rains are months away. The situation will get far worse there.

The situation in the north of Kenya was grim. On two trips to Shaba National Reserve we found a half dozen emaciated, immobile cows abandoned to their fate (to be eaten alive by hyenas). The grazing is almost non-existant, even in the boundries of the game reserves. More depressing was to pass Isiolo and see a cheerful young Borana woman who sells fruit to our camps. She was gaunt, her skin without the shiny, smooth glow of African health. She was obviously stricken with AIDS.

“Fatima” is a Muslim and there is a serious problem with HIV in Muslim communities. This is buried even deeper under “speak-no, see-no” taboos than among Christian Africans. “Fatima” ( not her real name) said she had recently had “typhoid”, the usual Kenyan shorthand to explain away a bout of AIDS. Last time I saw her , she looked almost double in weight.

Meanwhile, the friendly mechanic who rebuilt the safari body of my Land-Rover passed away from AIDS on Sunday, aged about 26 years old. It’s been a sobering start to the New Year.

Kenya badly needs donations to help in famine relief. Friends of Kenya is one site where tax-deductible (USA only) donations may be made. Give generously.

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