Kenya is facing a severe drought, the worst to hit our country in the past 40 years. An estimated six million people in 32 counties are facing acute food insecurity and/or acute malnutrition.
This includes 4.4 million people in the 23 arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) counties and 0.5 million in nine non-ASAL counties. In addition, 970,000 children below five years and 142,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers require urgent life-saving treatment for malnutrition.
Kenyans from 11 counties including Samburu, Turkana, Marsabit, Kitui, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Tana River, Makueni, Baringo and Garissa are now at a ‘crisis’ level of the Integrated Phase Classification food security classification.
Agricultural counties and agro-pastoral counties are also in a dire situation with their food security status continuing to decline. This is a precarious situation our fellow countrymen and women are facing, a situation that is beyond their control given the ongoing climate change that is steadily changing weather patterns and ecosystems across the globe.
I am a member of the National Steering Committee on Drought Response which was formed in November last year to support drought mitigation efforts and raise funds for food relief to save lives and livelihoods. The spirit of coming together, or harambee as it’s popularly known in Kenya, was the basis for its establishment – to bring together individual citizens, private and public sector organisations and the government in oneness, to mobilise resources and contribute ideas to deescalate the crisis.
Kenyans heeded the call and came together under the Wakenya Tulindane initiative, which was developed by the committee as a response call to rally donations towards the Drought Mitigation Appeal Fund. As of February 9, 2022, we had raised Sh650 million against a target of Sh1 billion by March 31 this year.
The spirit of harambee, which predates our independence, continues to be our undisputed rallying call, serving as a unifying force whenever the need arises. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Kenyan families and neighbours came together, shared food and other resources, conveyed health information, cared for children and the sick or elderly and provided mental and emotional support to one another.
It is this spirit that I am urging us to tap into, to extend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters bearing the brunt of the extended drought. It is important to understand the gravity of the situation, particularly in the ASAL. Approximately 65 per cent of agricultural produce has failed and over 2.6 million livestock have died.
The situation is dire and requires immediate attention. I urge you to contribute to the Drought Mitigation Appeal Fund via paybill 880990 which is available across all mobile networks, through KCB Bank account number 1305486137 or by dialing *126# to donate Bonga points. This will enable the steering committee to continue providing immediate and crucial relief to these families. No amount is too little.
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Thanks to the support we have received from Kenyans so far, we have been able to distribute food to over 85,800 Kenyans in Samburu, Marsabit, Kitui, Kilifi and Meru counties. We are finalizing plans to continue distributing food worth over Sh200 million across the 23 hardest-hit counties.
Similarly, we are keen to have partnerships for a long-term perspective. Partnerships for public purposes open up the model to include a diversity of stakeholders for sustainable, long-term, and systemic impact. This approach will enable us to harness technical expertise from agricultural and subject matter experts, government networks, private sector financiers, donor agencies and civil society to provide innovative and holistic approaches to strengthen the resilience in the ASAL and help protect livelihoods. For a start, we are getting into a partnership with the Kenya Defence Forces that will see them rehabilitate 192 boreholes in 30 counties.
Ms Devji is a Member of the National Steering Committee on Drought Response and Group CEO of Diamond Trust Bank.