800,000 more people in dire need of food as drought rages

Counties affected include Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Machakos and Homa Bay, among others.

In Summary
  • The situation is expected to deteriorate even further due to the projected poor October to December 2022 rains season.

  • Early models have pointed to the depressed March to May 2023 rains season, signalling an extended drought period and worsening impacts.

Carcasses of dead animals at Lagbohol in Wajir county.
DROUGHT CRISIS: Carcasses of dead animals at Lagbohol in Wajir county.
Image: FILE

An additional 800,000 people from counties initially thought to be food secure are in dire need.

The latest statistics from the National Drought Management Authority show 846,318 people have been affected by the ongoing drought in nine additional counties.

This is in addition to 4,254,545 Kenyans in dire need of food in 23 arid and semi-arid lands (Asals).

The drought agency said Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Machakos, Homa Bay, Migori, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet and Siaya are the latest additional counties in dire need of food.

In Murang’a, 56,757 are in need of relief food, Kirinyaga (138,576), Kiambu (83,700), Machakos (74,509), Homa Bay (99,029), Migori (83,408), Nakuru (162, 177), Elgeyo Marakwet (70,366) and Siaya (77,796).

Some of these counties are traditionally food sufficient.

The increasing numbers is likely to put the government in a precarious situation as it does not have the requisite resources and has been reaching out.

Food and farming systems expert Emanuel Atamba said the food insecurity is as a result of a failed society.

“We are in a situation where we have so much food in some areas to eat and luxury to waste and we also have those who can’t afford," he said. 

Atamba said there is a need to deal with all forms of inequality if food and nutrition security are to be assured.

“The surplus of what is produced in some areas should be distributed to other areas,” he said.

The farming systems expert at the same time called for transparency, even as the government and other stakeholders intervene, adding that media reports have shown that people have lost lives but the government remains silent. 

Atamba said there is need for long-term solutions to the drought while calling for more investments to agriculture.

He decried that both the national and county governments have done less to improve the funding towards agriculture, warning those against the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the country, saying it won’t solve the current challenges.

He said the government should instead strengthen small-scale farmers who are the engines behind food production in the country.

“We need extension services as well as weather data to reach farmers, especially now that we have the challenges to do with the changing weather patterns,” he said.

Atamba said food security and nutrition should be one of the key pillars in every election cycle.

The situation is expected to deteriorate even further due to the projected poor October to December 2022 rains season followed by usual January to March dry season.

Early models have pointed to the depressed March to May 2023 rains season, signalling an extended drought period and worsening impacts.

Kenya Meteorological Department forecast for November says occasional rainfall is likely over several parts of the country.

The October-November-December short-rains season typically peaks in November.

However, the cumulative amount expected is likely to be below average in the Lake Victoria Basin, the highlands west of the Rift Valley, the central and south Rift Valley, the highlands east of the Rift Valley, the South-eastern Lowlands, the North-Western, North-Eastern and the Coastal Strip.

However, isolated episodes of heavy rains are likely to be experienced in several parts of the country during the month.

The weather outlook for November 2022 to January 2023 indicates that the whole country will experience below average rainfall and warmer than average temperatures.

“The current drought being experienced over the northern, eastern and parts of Central is expected to intensify due to the depressed rainfall during the month. This may lead to an increase in the ongoing resource-based conflicts among the farming and pastoralist communities," Kenya Met said. 

'Thus, community leaders and local authorities are urged to put in place conflict resolution mechanisms and continue promoting peace and resource sharing among their communities.” 

Kenya Met said water is likely to remain scarce in the arid and semi-arid regions of the northern and eastern parts of the country for both human and livestock use.

To ensure that the water needs of the areas are met, it is crucial to continue monitoring and managing the water resources. Residents are also advised to harvest rainwater to supplement their needs.

Kenya Met said wildlife is set to migrate in search of pasture and water and may be an increase in conflicts between humans and wildlife, particularly in the Asal regions.

In order to reduce such occurrences and to prevent further loss of the wild animals due to the drought, relevant authorities are advised to provide foraging areas and watering points or pans for wildlife.

“As a consequence of the inadequate rainfall, it is anticipated that forest and wildfires may become more common during the month. To lessen the effects of fires on the environment, it is advised that the relevant authorities and communities implement fire management procedures and closely monitor the situation,” the agency said. 

It further warns that water borne and water washed diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, amoebiasis, trachoma and scabies are likely to increase due to water scarcity, especially in the Asal areas.

Kenya Met said plans should be put in place to provide safe drinking water to communities that draw water from open water sources.

Education on Water and Sanitation Hygiene should also be promoted among these communities.

The NDMA said those affected by the ongoing drought include children below the age of five years and pregnant women.

The authority said 942,000 children below five years require treatment for acute malnutrition, while 134,000 pregnant and lactating women require treatment for acute malnutrition.

The agency further said 2.5 million livestock deaths have been reported in various Asal counties.

It said most counties are facing acute water shortage which has severely affected access for domestic and livestock use, adding that there is widespread crop failure in marginal agriculture areas, a move that undermines food security.

Climate change, along with other drivers, is already undermining the recent progress made in promoting sustainable rural livelihoods and fighting against hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

Education has also been affected as absenteeism is rising and retention declining as families turn to different coping mechanisms, increasing in child labour.

Already, resource-based conflicts have been reported in several counties, with Laikipia, Baringo, Isiolo, Samburu and Marsabit being the most affected.

Asal regions cover 85 per cent of the land and account for 36 per cent of the population, and hosts 70 per cent of the national livestock herd. It also helps generate 90 per cent of the revenue from tourism.

The regions are also home to more than 90 per cent of renewable energy sources.

According to the NDMA, counties in the alarm phase include Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Kitui and Kajiado.

Those in alert stage include Makueni, Taita Taveta, Kwale, Kilifi, Narok, Nyeri (Kieni), Meru (Meru North), Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka) and Embu (Mbeere).

Baringo, West Pokot and Lamu are in normal phase.

The NDMA said there are ongoing interventions by the national government worth Sh16 billion.

These include Sh 1.5 billion emergency relief cash transfers that had reached 225, 435 households in December 2021, 170, 949 households in January 2022 and 104,151 households in May 2022.

The authority also said Sh 4.15 billion has been used for relief food distribution, while Sh2.2 billion has been used in school feeding programmes, reaching 851,987 learners in 2,855 schools.

Further, Sh5.04 billion has been used in Hunger Safety Net Programme regular and drought shock-responsive cash transfer reaching 372,260 households.

The NDMA said Sh 0.95 billion has been used for livestock off-take programme, Sh 1.146 billion for water response interventions, Sh0.1 billion for wildlife intervention and Sh0.025 billion for coordination.

The amount, NDMA said, excludes Sh10.2 billion under Inua Jamii regular cash transfers.

The intervention by non-state actors that include six UN agencies, 44 international NGOs, 36 national NGOs and three Red Cross is worth Sh 47.865 billion.

The European Union has donated Sh0.614 billion, FAO (Sh0.18 billion), the World Food Programme (Sh3.471 billion) and USAID (Sh42.6 billion).

Other partners that include NGOs, KRC, FBOs, FCDC and private sector have donated Sh1 billion.

On October 31, the government launched Kenya Private Sector Alliance-led Pamoja Tuungane call to action on the drought situation.

The private sector raised an initial Sh284 million during the event through cash and in-kind contributions.

In 2011, a similar initiative then known as ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ was launched to help those affected by what was then described by the UN as "the worst drought in over half a century".

The drought left more than 3.5 million Kenyans and 500,000 refugees in northern Kenya exposed to starvation and even death.

More than 385,000 children under the age of five were suffering from acute malnutrition as a result of the drought.

As an intervention, the Safaricom Foundation led a coalition of partners in a fundraising initiative during July and August 2011.

The initiatives helped raised more than Sh677 million in cash and close to Sh300 million in kind to help address the famine situation.

The impact of the initiative was however divided with claims that the funds were diverted to unintended cause.


(edited by Amol Awuor)

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