Isiolo youth abandon drugs, crime as empowerment programmes change lives

The county has distributed four matatus, 100 motorbikes, four tuk tuks, 30 shaving machines, 20 hair dryers among other equipment

In Summary
  • Last year, the county government drilled 16 boreholes that have brought water closer to the people
  • Residents previously trekked for several kilometres to fetch water
A woman cools off her head after fetching water at the borehole built by the county government of Isiolo/
A woman cools off her head after fetching water at the borehole built by the county government of Isiolo/

Amhed Musa looks at us pensively, he seems lost in thought as he fights back tears.

“I don’t know where I would be. Maybe in jail or dead,” he says as he responds to our question on the special programmes initiated by the Isiolo government.

The 23-year-old boda boda rider is a beneficiary of several empowerment programmes rolled out for youth and women.

“I was deeply in drugs and crime. I am speechless because this programme has saved my life,” he says.

The county has distributed four matatus, 100 motorbikes, four tuk tuks, 30 shaving machines, 20 hair dryers, 10 car wash machines and 30 sewing machines to youth groups.

More than 2,000 youths have benefited.

“Life was so hard. We were chewing miraa and consuming hard drugs on the streets. I did not know that our lives could change,” James Gitonga, a youth, says.

The initiative mainly targets recovering addicts and reformed criminals.

“We have seen the results of this empowerment programme. Our youths are now independent and can now comfortably support their families. They no longer call us asking for handouts,” says Special programmes chief officer Hassan Abdullahi.

In the next financial year, the county plans to help youth and women venture in agribusiness and transportation of goods such as sand.

Besides the ambitious empowerment programmes, the county has also initiated and revived several stalled projects.

Some of these projects include, drilling of boreholes, completion of the state-of-the-art Isiolo Market, county headquarters, Isiolo stadium and the multi-million-shilling Isiolo abattoir.

In the past one year, the county government has drilled 16 boreholes that have saved residents long treks in search of water.

“We have not had water in Akadeli village for decades. Before this project, we fetched water from the dirty Isiolo River for domestic use," says Rosemary Nang’enje, a resident of Akadeli.

She says the water exposed them to water borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.

Guyo launched the Akadeli borehole last week on Friday. It is expected to serve at least 400 households.

Agriculture chief officer Godana Dida said the new borehole is a first of its kind in the area since independence.

“This area has never had safe and reliable water since independence. Our people have suffered, for decades,” Dida, who is the immediate former water and sanitation chief officer, said.

“We are planning to drill 11 more boreholes to boost and solve water problems. Six will be drilled by the county and the remaining five by partners.”

Motorbikes and Nissan Matatu's donated by the Isiolo governor to the self-help groups
Motorbikes and Nissan Matatu's donated by the Isiolo governor to the self-help groups

In a bid to permanently fix water problems in the county, the administration plans to construct a Sh30.9 billion dam – the Crocodile Jaw Dam.

The dam is projected to hold a water capacity of 315 cubic metres.

“Our aim is to provide a permanent solution that will make Isiolo water sufficient,” Dida said.

The Isiolo county market building that is still under construction
The Isiolo county market building that is still under construction

The county is also fast-tracking the completion of Sh584 million state- of-the-art Isiolo market.

The five-storey building, which will host 1,500 traders, was started by the previous administration but stalled mid-way.

Mary Gitonga, a trader along the busy Isiolo-Nanyuki highway, is one of the many traders waiting for the completion of the market.

The traders settled on the highway after their former market got burnt in 2018.

“This place is very risky because there are trailers that also use the highway. To make matters worse, we have children here and our goods are also destroyed by the sun and rain," she says.

Isiolo Market Treasurer Esther Keruja decries congestion at the market that is hosting more than 700 traders.

“We are losing a lot because many customers are avoiding the congestion in this market. They prefer buying items from hawkers on the street,” she says.

Meanwhile, the county is rushing to complete the Sh850 million Isiolo export abattoir.

The project, which had stalled for more than 16 years, has been touted as a game changer for pastoralists.

Agriculture Executive Yussuf Mohamed says they received Sh541 million support from World Bank through the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project to revive the project.

“The internal work of the abattoir including mechanical and refrigeration is 96 per cent complete, thus leaving us with the external bit,” he said.

The facility is expected to tap supplies from neighbouring Samburu, Marsabit, Laikipia, Garissa, Wajir and Meru counties.

It is envisioned to transform livestock production in Isiolo and its environs.

The abattoir sits on 500,000 acres, inclusive of feedlots, disease free zone and livestock receiving yard.

It has a capacity to slaughter more than 1,000 sheep and goats, 300 cows and more than 100 camels every day.

Once completed, the abattoir will employ 80 people directly and benefit more than 20,000 families.

The county is also face-lifting the Isiolo Referral Hospital, by building a new accident and emergency wing complete with an Intensive Care Unit, high dependency unit, renal unit, pharmacy and radiology units.

Isiolo is also modernising and expanding the hospital’s morgue at the cost of Sh10 million.

“We awarded a Sh10 million tender which is meant to service and expand the existing machines and incorporate new ones that can accommodate 16 bodies,” says Medical Services chief officer Abdirahman Ibrahim.

In addition, the county has struck a deal with Kenya Medical Supplies Authority that will see drugs and other essentials supplied to Isiolo Referral Hospital and other facilities.

“The hospital's pharmacy is fully stocked. Currently, there is no other facility you can refer a patient If Isiolo Referral Hospital doesn’t have drugs,” Ibrahim says.

There are 56 health facilities in Isiolo, including a Level 5 and two Level 4 Hospitals.

Ibrahim says the ongoing doctors strike has affected services at the referral facility that attends to between 400 and 700 patients a day.

In Education, the county has launched a school feeding programme and started building Early Childhood Development Education classrooms.

The Sh7 million school feeding initiative is aimed at addressing hunger, malnutrition and enhancing school attendance.

Lucy Kendi, a teacher at Waso Primary School says the programme has helped increase enrollment of children.

“Many children are in class because of the feeding programme. To some, this could be the only meal,” she says.

The meals are inclusive of a cup of porridge, rice and beans.

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