Over 3.5 million Kenyans in dire need of food, says IGAD

IGAD Executive Secretary Dr Workneh Gebeyehu during a media briefing on the drought and famine situation in the horn of Africa on April 11, 2022. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

More than 3.5 million Kenyans are in need of immediate food assistance, with the country staring at the prospect of failed rains usually experienced from March to May, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has warned.

March was “particularly dry”, according to IGAD's Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), placing Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia at the risk of facing a drought of a length not experienced in the last 40 years.

"The March to May rains are crucial for the region and, sadly, we are looking at not just three, but potentially four consecutive failed seasons," said Workneh Gebeyehu, IGAD's Executive Secretary.

"This, coupled with other stress factors such as conflicts in both our region and Europe, the impact of Covid-19, and macro-economic challenges, has led to acute levels of food insecurity across the Greater Horn of Africa". 

The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, co-chaired by IGAD and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), estimates that over 29 million people are facing high levels of food insecurity across the IGAD region.

Guleid Artan, ICPAC's Director, warned that the coming months will be harsher on the region.

“The severe shortages in water and pasture are leading to reduced food production, significant losses in livestock and wildlife, and a rise in the resource-based conflict in the region. On the outlook, our early warning systems and indicators show the situation worsening in the coming months,” said Dr Artan. 

Calls for emergency action and development, including investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation, have been mooted as part of the measures to arrest the situation.

Alessandra Casazza, Manager of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resilience Hub for Africa said that IGAD is concerned about “the grave situation in East Africa” and a renewed call for countries in the Global North "to honour their commitment to climate finance - $100 billion (Sh116 billion) to help developing countries adjust to the climate emergency".

"Climate shocks keep coming back. We must invest in adaptation to build long-term resilience across the region,” she said.

She noted that leveraging new technology in the fourth industrial revolution could go help address long-term resilience, with the provision of water a key component in alleviating drought and hunger.

Ms Casazza said that space science and earth observation techniques could bolster the relevant bodies’ efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Dr Gebeyehu has called upon governments, humanitarian agencies and donors to give “immediate assistance” to prevent the deaths of the severely affected.

In the budget statement read last week, Treasury CS Ukur Yatani announced the allocation of Sh147 million for the increase of agricultural production and enhancement of resilience to climate change response in targeted smallholder farming and pastoral communities in Kenya. This is under the Climate Smart Agricultural Productivity Project.

Another Sh850 million will go to enhancing drought resilience and sustainable livelihood, while Sh178 million will be used for drought emergencies in affected areas.

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