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Kenyans bracing for tough times as worst drought in 5 years looms

By Frankline Sunday and Brigid Chemweno | Updated Thu, January 12th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3
People who have travelled as far as 20km fetch water from the hyacinth-covered Lake Victoria at Wagusu Beach in Siaya County on Tuesday. Many boda boda riders have ventured into the water-vending business. A 20-litre jerrycan is retailing at Sh50 depending on the distance from the source. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

Kenyans will have to dig deeper into their pockets for basic goods this year as the country enters the worst drought in half a decade.

This comes even as the Kenyan shilling continues to weaken against the US dollar, raising the country's import bill and further pushing up inflationary pressures.

The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) is now warning that depressed short rains across all counties in December will lead to a drought situation last experienced in 2011.

The authority further said rainfall levels in December were too low to reverse the dry spell. Counties in arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) will bear the brunt of the drought.

"In almost all counties, the vegetation condition was worse in December than it was in November," said the authority in a report titled National Drought Early Warning Bulletin.

Kilifi, Kwale and Lamu counties had negative readings on the vegetation condition index, (VCI). Other counties such as Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Wajir and Tharaka Nithi recorded similar dire conditions.

The VCI is a reading of the state of vegetation cover that compares it with the range of values for the same period in previous years classifying regions under five broad categories - above-normal vegetation, normal vegetation, moderate vegetation deficit, severe vegetation deficit, and extreme vegetation deficit.

The counties named all have VCI values dipping into the negative, indicating extreme vegetation deficit for the last three months. The situation is expected to worsen in the coming months.

"For the most part, pans and dams recharged to far less than their maximum capacity," read the NDMA report in part.

OPEN SOURCES

"High surface temperatures reported in counties such as Baringo and Taita Taveta mean any remaining open sources will dry up sooner than usual. River levels in Isiolo, Meru and West Pokot had already reduced significantly by the end of December."

This, coupled with the pressure currently being experienced by the Kenyan shilling, is expected to drive up the cost of basic commodities thereby bursting the budgets of many households.

In 2011, the East African region was hit by what the UN reported as the worst drought in 60 years, affecting 13 million people in parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

Meanwhile, the Government has said it has put in place measures to mitigate the drought witnessed in some parts of the country.

Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the State would continue to distribute food to the affected regions in a bid to ensure that no lives were lost as a result of hunger.

"We are continuing with plans to address drought in the country and we are collaborating with other stakeholders," he said.


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