Arrest hunger situation before it gets out of hand

KTN News reporter Ibrahim Karanja inspecting a cows carcass which died due to the ravaging drought in Tiaty, Baringo County on March 17, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

More than 28 million people across East Africa are at risk of extreme hunger if the March rains fail again, an international development charity warned on Tuesday. Oxfam International said the global food and commodity prices spiking in reaction to Ukraine crisis will worsen hunger for 21 million people already in severe food insecurity in the region. Oxfam further said areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and beyond are experiencing an unfolding full-scale catastrophe.

In Turkana and West Pokot, the National Drought Management Authority has reported a rise in malnutrition in children due to prolonged drought.

The March rains are already late and farmers are worried that the planting season might come too late. Coupled with the astronomical increase in prices of farm inputs, the hunger situation could soon escalate into a full-blown catastrophe if it hasn't already.

Coming in an election year when rogue politicians usually look for the slightest opportunity to provoke the masses, this hunger crisis is a perfect recipe for chaos.

Already, banditry attacks in Baringo and Kerio Valley have escalated and they can be traced back to scarcity of resources — a situation worsened by the drought.

The Kenyan government must therefore move with speed and arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.

Being a regional problem, countries in region, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda, can work together to find common solutions.

The region can start by facilitating farming when the rains come by subsiding prices of farm inputs to make them affordable.

The price of fertiliser has more than doubled, from Sh2,500 last year to Sh6,000 for a 50kg bag.

In Kenya, the government is currently advancing cash transfers to the vulnerable populations to cushion them against the extreme effects of drought and famine.

For instance, 1,550 vulnerable households in Turkana Central receive Sh6,662 each every month.

However, this cash transfer programme needs to be revisited as there have been cases of some deserving families missing out. In addition, what about those who get the cash but can't find food to buy.

Food prices have also spiked and Sh6,000 is barely enough to feed an entire household for a month. The cash transfer programme should therefore be complemented with relief donations, and we call upon charity organisations to also join the cause.

Beyond the cash transfer programme and relief donations, finding a lasting solution to the perennial drought, especially in northern Kenya, is a song the government is only too familiar with.

With climate change worsening the situation by causing erratic weather even in areas that are traditionally not associated with droughts, the government can no longer afford to ignore this situation if it really cares for the well being of the citizens.