The barren semi-desert Turkana region is home to about a million people. For a large part of the mainly nomadic pastoralist inhabitants of the area today, surviving in what is easily the harshest environment in Kenya is still a struggle.
The second largest county by size, Turkana has among the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country, the lowest school enrolment rates and the lowest life expectancy. Also, the Human Development Index of Turkana is significantly lower than the weighted national average.
Things are looking up for Turkana County nevertheless. Not least in the reasons for new optimism is the fact that in 2012, the Government of Kenya announced that substantial oil deposits had been discovered in parts of Turkana County. Though it will be a while before the petrodollars begin to reflect in the economy, indicators such as an increase in services and jobs, expansion in activities in the hospitality industry, and increase in the frequency of flights to the county’s main town of Lodwar suggest a bright future.
Two vast underground aquifers, storing billions of litres of water, have also been discovered. The aquifers could change the lives of people in the region. “This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole” said Dr Judi Wakhungu, Environment Minister.