State, UN launch Sh26b appeal as drought bites

United Nation Resident Coordinator Dr Stephen Jacob during the launch of Kenya Flash Drought Appeal at Wajir County Commissioner's office. [James Wanzala, Standard]

The government and United Nations have launched a flash drought appeal to raise Sh15 billion ($239.5 million) to fight drought in 23 Arid and Semi-Arid (Asal) counties.

Speaking on Thursday at the Wajir county commissioner’s office, United Nations Resident Coordinator Stephen Jackson called for immediate action to respond to the severe drought.

“People in the Asal region are facing a dire situation and it is prudent that we act now. We must work closely with communities and community-led organisations, to alleviate the suffering that has been caused by drought,’’ said Dr Jackson.

Jackson said they are at least 2.1 million people facing severe food insecurity in the region, and this is expected to rise to 2.4 million by November.

“So far, an estimated $28.5 million (Sh3.1 billion) has already been received from donors, including $5 million (Sh550 million) from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund,” he said.

“The appeal brings together 45 humanitarian partners, including UN agencies like United Nations Children Fund (Unicef), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), national NGOs and the Kenya Red Cross Society, in a joined-up effort to complement the government’s response to the dire drought crisis that is facing people in the Asal regions,” added Jackson.

Mr Micah Powon, from the State Department of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, said the drought is significantly worsening.

“In August, one county was classified in the alarm drought phase, but in September, the number shot to five. The regions are Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir, where 2.1 million people are in need of emergency assistance,” he said.

He said the outlook for the short rains expected between October to December, this year is worrying.

"It is essential that we scale up our response to prevent widespread distress and suffering,” he added, saying water is a key challenge in these counties.

On September 8, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared drought a national disaster.

Powon noted that the government’s response plan between September and December will require nearly Sh7.4 billion, where Sh4.5 billion will go towards food and safety net support.

“Nearly Sh3 billion will be set aside to non-food interventions in the sectors of livestock, health and nutrition, education, water, agriculture, and peace and security,” said Powon.

National Treasury, he said, is in the process of releasing Sh2 billion for the new National Drought Emergency Fund, and a further Sh1.7billion for emergency cash transfers.

Wajir Governor Ahmed Ali Muktar said the drought in his county is severe and requires immediate intervention.

He said the county has already started using trucks to deliver water to the most affected residents and they are also repairing stalled boreholes. 

“Out of the allocation, Sh108 million will go to buying borehole spare parts. We are soon launching Sh100 million bursaries for students. We recently launched Sh14 million for people with disabilities and Sh31 million for food supply to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and we thank UN partners for their help. I take this opportunity to appeal for more,” said Governor Muktar.

He said the last time the county received adequate rainfall was December 2019, which has resulted in drought.