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People are walking miles for clean water in drought-struck Kenya — and finding none

Drone footage released by ActionAid U.K. shows locals drawing water from a dried-up riverbed in Kenya. A drought in East Africa that has left more than 16 million people facing famine, according to ActionAid U.K. (Video: ActionAid U.K.)

Imagine walking three or four miles to get a drink. It’s hot, it’s dry — there’s no water where you live. You arrive at what used to be the nearest river but it’s now a beach-like strip of dirt. Yes, there is water, but it’s opaque with mud at the bottom of a small well dug in hopes of finding moisture beneath the former riverbed.

The effects of climate change in the developing world is rarely illustrated in such a clear way; the water is gone, and people are enduring the fight of their lives for food and a safe drink.

ActionAid, which shared the drone video about the search on March 20, estimates that 2.7 million people need aid in Kenya alone.

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“Women and girls are walking up to nine kilometers in search of water,” the nongovernmental organization reports. That also means there’s no water to grow or raise food. If you don’t die of thirst, you may die of starvation.

Pinning environmental disasters on climate change is difficult, but not in the case of Africa. Scientists have watched climate change cut back on rainfall and increase temperatures in arid and semiarid regions of “the cradle of humanity,” mainly Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

“Africa is projected as the continent that will experience climate deviations earlier and more severely than any other region,” Richard Munang, coordinator of the Africa Regional Climate Change Program for the U.N. Environment Program, told The Washington Post in 2016.

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Climate scientists all over the world agree — the climate is already changing in Africa, and future change is inevitable. But the change won’t be positive. Africa has always been a continent of extremes, now exacerbated by man-made global warming.

As The Washington Post has reported, the people who live in these conditions don’t understand why or how it’s happening, but they know things are different now.

“I don’t know what climate change is, but I know from all the changes — the constant droughts, the seasons are gone — these are changes happening in our land,” Joseph Ekimomor, who lives in the now-dry Lake Turkana Basin, told The Post in 2016. “Our life is becoming hard, and we can’t do anything.”