UN report reveals predictable drought, food shortage pattern

Nine-year drought analysis in the country shows the situation has been worsening. [File, Standard]

A United Nations report indicates a nine-year drought trend that has intensified food shortage in the country.

The report shows an increase in the number of people who are acutely food insecure and can barely meet their basic dietary requirements.

By 2015, about 1.1 million Kenyans faced acute food shortage, but the number increased to about 4.5 million by October this year.

On February 10, 2017, the Government declared a national drought emergency, with 23 of 47 counties affected. The number of food insecure people more than doubled from 1.3 million to 2.7 million.  By the time, the report noted that over 357,000 children and pregnant and lactating mothers were acutely malnourished.

The report, published by ReliefWeb, an information source for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, analysed humanitarian trends in Kenya between 2014 and 2022.

According to the UN, by May 2017, more than 2.6 million Kenyans were severely food insecure.  The situation was characterised by high levels of malnutrition levels across the arid and semi-arid (Asal) counties. The severe drought dried up water resources in half of the country’s 47 counties and an estimated 3 million people lacked access to clean water.

During the period, insecurity linked to resource-based conflicts worsened, while armyworm infestations continued to threaten crops in marginal agricultural counties, further worsening the prospects for the next harvest.

The drought conditions from 2017 persisted to 2018, leaving 3.4 million people without food and an estimated 500,000 without access to water. About 482,882 children required treatment for acute malnutrition, including 104,614 who were suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

From March to May, 2018, countrywide above-average long rains, however, changed the trends, improving food security.

In 2019, the drought was experienced from January to March, pushing more counties into the alarm drought stage that affected 20 counties in Asal. By June that year, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group estimated that 1.6 million people were in need of humanitarian food assistance.

However, the conditions improved between October and December as the country experienced one of the wettest short rains seasons.

By February this year, about 3.1 million people suffered acute food insecurity compared to the same period in 2021 when 1.4 million Kenyans were affected. The numbers have continued to rise with deteriorating conditions in 21 out of the 23 Asal counties.

The latest statistics indicate that drought is affecting about 4.5 million people compared to 2.1 million in September 2021.

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