BOMA works in Marsabit and Samburu Counties of Northern Kenya — a remote, rural area larger than the country of Ireland that covers approximately 32,000 square miles (84,000 square kilometers). The traditional homeland of the pastoral nomads, it is an arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) that suffers from the highest poverty rates in the country. Infrastructure is minimal, with few paved roads and no formal banks or post offices; for many, the distance to the nearest health center is as much as 300 kilometers. There are no large employers, and residents lack the education and skills required to seek jobs in other parts of the country. For those who do find work, the average income is less than one dollar per day.
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Although livestock remains the traditional source of food and income, it is increasingly unsustainable as the severity of droughts escalates due to climate change; during the extended drought of 2008-2009, for example, 90 percent of the region’s livestock died. In 2011, the Horn of Africa was hit by the worst drought in 60 years, triggering a hunger crisis that impacted 13 million people and left an estimated 100,000 people dead – mostly women and children.
The United Nations estimated that the cost of the humanitarian response was $1.5 billion.