At least 3.5 million people facing starvation as Kenya’s drought worsens

 At least 3.5 million people facing starvation as Kenya’s drought worsens

Cabinet Secretary for the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs, and Special Programmes Prof Margaret Kobia receives Kes50 million dummy cheque from Safaricom PLC Chairman Michael Joseph at the launch of Pamoja Tuungane campaign that seeks to rally companies as well as Kenyans to help starving families.

An estimated 3.5 million people across Kenya are in dire need of food supplies after three seasons of failed rainfall worsens drought across 23 counties.

A study by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), shows that poor March to May long rains have failed and that the food insecurity can only worsen.

There is an increasing belief that rains will fail in the Eastern Africa region for the fourth consecutive season.

“The situation is dire. The March-April-May rains are crucial for the region and, sadly, we are looking at not just three, but potentially four consecutive failed seasons,” IGAD executive secretary, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, said.

About 3.5 million people or 23 percent of the population in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) would be pushed into a dire need for food.

Dr Gebeyehu said the drought, which has not been experienced in the country for the last 40 years has been worsened by conflicts, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and macroeconomic challenges.

“All this combined has led to acute food insecurity in the affected areas of the region,” he said.

A total of 23 counties including worst-hit Marsabit, Kwale, Lamu, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Turkana, Samburu and West Pokot are reeling from the effects of drought.

Others are Baringo, Kajiado, Narok, Laikipia, Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Kitui, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera counties.

Most parts of the country have experienced little or no rainfall since 2020 and this will be the fourth season in a row that the rains will be failing to meet traditional expectations.

According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, over 90 percent of open water sources in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands have dried up and the remaining ones are projected to last only between one and two months.

OCHA has further warned that the lakeside communities dwelling in Turkana cannot continue to survive on fishing.

Read also: The worsening hunger problem of Kenya’s poor. Here’s how you can help

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) already warned of poor distribution of rainfall for the remainder of the March to May rainy season, attributing it to low pressure over the southern hemisphere and the high pressure over the northern hemisphere which has made it unfavorable for the country to receive rains.

The forecast showed that enhanced rainfall was expected over the Highlands West of the Rift Valley, the Lake Victoria Basin, Central and South Rift Valley. The prediction had a 35 percent probability.

The rains were also expected in the northwest, the highlands east of the Rift Valley, including Nairobi, and the southeastern lowland regions of Machakos, Makueni, and Kitui counties.

As usual, the March-April-May rain season is important in Kenya as it is the time farmers plant.

“The MAM (March to May) rains are crucial for the region and sadly, we are looking at not just three, but potentially four consecutive failed seasons. This, coupled with other stress factors has led to acute levels of food insecurity across the Greater Horn of Africa,” said Dr Gebeyehu.

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group co-chaired by IGAD and UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 29 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity across the IGAD region.

IGAD is therefore calling on member states, donors, and humanitarian partners to increase their emergency response in the affected countries immediately to avoid further worsening of the humanitarian crisis.

Telcom giant is already rallying other companies in Kenya as well as individuals to join the Pamoja Tuungane campaign to raise awareness of the drought situation as well as to donate food, cash or donate Bonga Points for food to help save lives.

Safaricom Foundation and M-PESA Foundation have each donated Kes50 million worth of food that is en route to over 250,000 residents of Marsabit who are in critical need of food.

“We call upon other corporates and Kenyans across the country to come together as we assist those facing food shortages as a result of the drought,” said CEO Peter Ndegwa.

KCB Group Foundation has also pledged KES2.5 million in cash relief support as well as long-term financing through training and equipping farmers to use climate-smart technologies.

Supermarket chain Naivas is providing food hampers that Kenyans can buy and donate while also committing to offering transportation logistics to desired destinations for the initial donation.

“In as much as we cannot do all the good the world needs, we believe that the world needs all the good we can give,” said David Kimani, Naivas Managing Director.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also launched a food and nutrition assistance scheme dubbed the Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa to aid the affected communities.

This is in addition to cash grants and insurance deals that are helping families to buy food for livestock.

The programme is calling for $327 million to meet the immediate wants of over 4.5 million people in the next six months, a move that will help communities build resilience to the looming climate shocks.



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