Flooding and drought fuels mental health crisis in Kenya

By Sophie Mbugua

About a year ago, Pauline Yator, a 50-year-old mother of seven from Baringo county in Kenya’s Rift Valley, said she almost went mad.

“The farm I had called home for nearly 30 years was completely submerged, I was in shock and afraid. For two weeks I walked by the roadside speaking to myself,” Yator told Climate Home News. “Questions ran through my mind without answers. How will my children survive? Where do I resettle? It was a difficult time.” Yator is not the only Kenyan farmer to suffer from severe depression and anxiety. Kenya is facing a mental health crisis, triggered, in part, by climate change. Many sufferers told Climate Home News that losses caused by drought, flooding and other extreme weather contributed to their distress. According to the World Health Organization, Kenya ranks fourth in Africa for the most number of mental health cases, with 1.9 million people, 4.4% of the population suffering from depression. In June 2020, the government declared a mental health emergency after a recommendation by a task force. Yator received no psychological support and turned to prayer to cope. Now, a year later, she sustains her family as a fishmonger in Kambi ya Samaki area, along the shores of Lake Baringo. While looking for work, Yator relied on friends and well wishers for financial support. “When I was at my farm, I had water, firewood all from my farm. Today, I cannot afford to pay my daughter’s university fees – something I did at ease with the farm produce,” she said.

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