Step up efforts to bail out drought-hit families

OPINION |

Pastoralist communities in Kenya’s north are counting their losses as the effects of drought become more pronounced. In July, the Drought Management Authority issued a drought alert in the arid and semi-arid counties of Kajiado, Turkana, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Baringo, Kilifi, Isiolo, Tana River, Kwale, Marsabit and Kitui.

Following the drought alert and severity of the situation, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster on September 8, 2021. The president’s declaration of drought should, ideally, have loosened Treasury’s purse strings to facilitate funds disbursement to the affected areas.

Relevant government institutions set up purposefully for such emergencies have been trying to mitigate the drought. However, the recent appeal for help and release of funds by Members of Parliament under the auspice of the Pastoralist Parliamentary Group (PPG) shows the situation is still dire.

As would be expected, the movement of herders in search of pasture and water has triggered inter-communal resource-based conflicts, which should never have been allowed to happen because the government had been forewarned of the situation by the Meteorological Department.

Many herders have lost nearly all their animals. The remaining are too weak and dying from hunger and lack of water. This has prompted calls for the government to intervene and help them cut their losses. Buying the animals from herders for slaughter at the Kenya Meat Commission factory is a viable option.

In the meantime, the government should release requisite emergency funds to mitigate the drought’s effects. Provision of food aid and water for both animals and human beings as requested by PPG will give a lifeline to pastoralists and their animals. There are close to 2.1 million Kenyans in dire need of food aid to survive the drought that is likely to run into December given the variables of climate change effects.   

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