2.1 million Kenyans in 12 arid counties staring at starvation

Kenya Red Cross Secretary-General Asha Mohamed. Elijah Muli, Head of Disaster Management (Right). [David Gichuru, Standard]

Over two million Kenyans are facing starvation as a result of a drought that is currently ravaging 12 arid and semi-arid counties.

According to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), which gave a drought situation update in the country yesterday, the affected counties are Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu, Samburu, Kitui, Isiolo, Laikipia and Baringo.

"Some 2.1 million people in 12 counties face severe food shortages following prolonged drought stretching back to the October, November and December 2020 rainy season and poor rains of March April, May 2021. The numbers are expected to increase unless urgent interventions are implemented, the situation will get out of hand," said Elijah Muli, Head of Disaster Management.

The worst affected counties are Turkana, Garissa, Wajir and Marsabit, which have about five per cent of their populations in Acute Food Insecurity Classification (IPC 4) as per the National Drought Management Authority.

These counties, according to the humanitarian organisation, have had no significant harvest and most water points such as boreholes, wells and water pans have dried. 

Already the Kenya Red Cross is supporting efforts by the national and county governments to distribute food in these areas.

"Food distribution is going on in Marsabit and Mandera. However, these efforts need to be stepped up to reduce the suffering of the affected communities, especially women, girls and children under five. Also needed is the supply of fresh drinking water for domestic use and for livestock," added Muli.

The KRCS is targeting to support 100,000 households over the next six months with its efforts being undertaken in coordination with government agencies at the national and county levels.

According to the Secretary-General Asha Mohamed, priority also should be on water provision.

"Rehabilitation of water systems that were broken down by floods in the past can bring quick turnaround for livestock and human being benefit to avert the situation," said Dr Mohamed.

No deaths have been reported. 

The Covid-19 pandemic, she said, has also affected drought response activities because certain interventions now cannot be carried out due to Ministry of Health protocols.

"What I have seen in Wajir is that people were overcrowding at few available water sources hence no social distance. And due to lack of water, handwashing is also affected," she said. 

James Oduor, Chief Executive Officer of the National Drought Management Authority, said a multi-sectoral approach, which also involves UN agencies, is ongoing to tackle the situation both at national and counties level.