Since 2021, Humane Society International has been supporting drought response and mitigation efforts in the northeastern Kenyan county of Garissa in partnership with a local conservation organization, Hirola Conservation Program. Here, Kelly Donithan, director of Animal Disaster Response for Humane Society International, recounts her recent trip to the region.

I’m standing on the sandy edge of the Tana River in northeastern Kenya when the sun starts to slip behind the tall trees across the murky water, finally giving us some relief from the day’s relentless heat. The dry season has just come to an end, and the level of the river is relatively low, revealing the sharp cliffs of erosion. Each extreme rainy season carves a new path, and a new one is coming.

I smell the earthy whiffs of evening meals being prepared on open fires, and I hear the bleating of goats being herded back to safety for the night. Flocks of small shorebirds and doves fly across the water, backlit by the setting sun, a mesmerizingly beautiful sight that almost makes me forget why we’re here.

This part of Kenya, as in other parts of East Africa, has been experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. The past three years of prolonged drought has affected much of the Horn of Africa, and the National Government of Kenya declared the conditions a national disaster on Sept. 8, 2021. Drought conditions persist today, affecting lives of both people and animals.