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4.3 million people stare at starvation as drought worsens

National Drought Management Authority has warned in its September report that one million people are already malnourished and in dire need of treatment.
National Drought Management.
[File, Standard]

More than 4 million Kenyans are facing starvation and do not have access to water following a severe, prolonged drought after rains failed in the last four seasons, National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) has said.

The Authority has warned in its September report that one million people are already malnourished and in dire need of treatment.

"Worsening households food security situation has resulted in acute malnutrition rates noted across the counties, with 942,000 cases of children aged 6–59 months acutely malnourished and 134,000 cases of pregnant or lactating women acutely malnourished in need of treatment," the National Drought Early Warning Bulletin report said yesterday. 

The report, which calls for urgent action to save the lives of the 4.35 million Kenyans, notes that the situation is moving from worse to the grave after weather forecast showed there will be little rain in October, November, and December (OND). This will push more people into starvation, spark insecurity and the spread of diseases.

"The drought situation continued to worsen in 20 of the 23 Asal counties after failing four consecutive seasons, with the forecast for OND predicting the likelihood of a fifth season underperforming," read the report.

During the month under review, three counties reported an improving trend, three counties recorded a stable trend, and 17 counties reporting a worsening trend. 

The report said there is low purchasing power in households.

"In the counties of Baringo, Embu, Kwale, Laikipia, Makueni, Narok, Samburu, West Pokot, Marsabit, and Nyeri, the price of maize was on an improving trend in the month under review, while eight registered stable prices, as the remaining five counties showed worsening prices compared to the previous month," the report said.

Families are also trekking more kilometers to access water than before noted the NDMA report 

The vegetation condition in August 2022 was worse compared to the same period in August 2021.

The most affected counties are Isiolo, Mandera, Samburu, Kajiado, Tharaka Nithi, Turkana, Wajir, Laikipia, Tana River, and Marsabit. 

Ten counties under alarm are Embu, Garissa, Kitui, Makueni, Meru, Narok, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Kwale, and Kilifi. 
The remaining three counties, including Baringo, West Pokot, and Lamu, are facing a normal drought phase.

The state said the fair-to-poor condition is a result of the poor performance of the 2022 long rain season, accompanied by early cessation, which resulted in little or no regeneration of pasture and browse that had a direct impact on livestock body condition. 

"An analysis of the August 2022 monthly rainfall indicates that several parts of the Asal counties experienced near to below-average rainfall (less than 60mm of rainfall)," the report said.

The Pastoral North Eastern (PNE) counties, which include Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Tana River and parts of Garissa, received only traces of rainfall of between 10mm and 20mm of rainfall.

The South Eastern Agricultural (Sema) counties, which are Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kajiado, Meru, Makueni, and Kitui counties, received very little rainfall in the range of 20mm-60mm.
The Coast Marginal Agriculture (CMA) counties of Kwale, Kilifi, and Lamu counties received between 10 mm and 40 mm, which are below.

"Some parts of the Agro-Pastoral cluster, Baringo and West Pokot received July-August rainfall that was normal to above normal in the range of 80mm-200mm of rainfall totals, with some areas, especially Pokot South, receiving very high rainfall totals of 200mm," the state said.

The rainfall forecast for October and December (OND) will be below-average and, at most levels, highly depressed in various parts of the country.

"Generally, the 2022 index indicates low values of vegetation in the counties of Marsabit, Samburu, Isiolo, Wajir, Kajiado, Garissa, and Tana River," the state said.

The report said that August 2022 saw a slight improvement in vegetation conditions in the coastal marginal agriculture counties of Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, and Taita Taveta, as well as parts of the Tana River's southeast marginal agriculture counties of Mandera, Wajir, and Turkana. The improvement is associated with the off-season showers of the June-July-August season of 2022.

The sub-counties of Nyeri (Township), Isiolo, Samburu, and Marsabit have severe vegetation deficits, while Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Kajiado, Laikipia, Embu, Kitui, Meru, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, and Tana River have moderate vegetation deficits, necessitating close monitoring and response plans.

"We have some vegetation in Turkana, Tharaka Nithi, West Pokot, Makueni, Nyeri, and Narok counties despite the rain being scarce," the report said.

The state of pasture and browse in most of the arid and semi-arid counties were generally in fair to poor conditions.

"The current pasture and browse conditions are below normal as compared to normal years, with no improvement realized when compared to the previous month due to the failed rainfall season, which led to little regeneration of pasture and browses," the report said.