State of Drought in Kenya, Was the government aware of the impending danger?

Early this year, the Government declared a national drought emergency, with 23 of 47 counties affected although seventeen of those are the worst hit.

The number of food insecure people more than doubled – from 1.3 million to 2.7 million. Some 357,285 children and pregnant and lactating mothers are acutely malnourished.

The latest nutrition surveys showed that three sub-counties (Turkana North, North Hor (Marsabit), Mandera) had GAM rates above 30 per cent. Six sub-counties (Turkana Central, Turkana South, Turkana West, Laisamis, East Pokot (Baringo), Isiolo) had GAM rates between 15 and 29 per cent.

Despite the warning,the government has kept quiet and sunk it’s head in the sand until the last minutes when it came up only to the annoyance of many to announce that there is no Kenyan that had died out of hunger led by the Deputy President William Ruto.

The Coastal areas experienced total crop failure with maize production in the area decreasing by 99 per cent compared to the long term average. People have to travel further to access water, for example in Baringo, household walk three times longer than normal. Pastoralist communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties are losing their livestock with reports of large numbers of animal deaths in Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Mandera counties.

Data collected by UNICEF from 10 affected counties indicated that close to 175,000 children were not attending early pre-primary and primary schools, primarily due to the drought’s impact.

More than 2.6 million Kenyans were severely food insecure as of May 2017 and this number was rapidly rising. High levels of malnutrition are prevalent across the arid and semi-arid lands. Three sub-counties report Global Acute Malnutrition rates of 30 per cent, double the emergency threshold.

Severe drought has dried up water resources in half of Kenya’s 47 counties and an estimated 3 million people lack access to clean water. Recurrent droughts have destroyed livelihoods, triggered local conflicts over scare resources and eroded the ability of communities to cope. Families are on the move, which poses protection risks for women and children.

Kenya is experiencing multiple disease outbreaks including cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea and measles. An estimated 2.9 million people require lifesaving medical interventions and community based primary health care outreach which is one of the President’s agendas.

The National Drought Management Authority’s (NDMA) early warning bulletin in June last year indicated that while the long rains had ended, many parts of the Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASALs) were still experiencing long distances between home and water sources, unusually high food prices, and worrying levels of malnutrition.

Being the third consecutive below-average rainfall season, the modest recovery conditions in some parts of ASALs are likely to be short-lived. Therefore, the on coming dry season (June to September) was expected to be a difficult one for the ASALs in terms of malnutrition and access to water and food, particularly for pastoral communities.

The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst hunger crises in recent times due to a prolonged drought. The current drought is worse in a number of ways than in 2011, with some areas experiencing the failure of three rains in a row.

In Kenya, 2.6 million people are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity. The number could increase to 3.5 million in need of targeted assistance by August. In parts of Marsabit and Turkana, where communities are unable to reach sustained humanitarian assistance, they are at risk of sliding in to emergency levels of hunger.

Following at least two consecutive poor rainy seasons, food security needs were expected to peak in October 2017 as food and income sources are below-average across the majority of pastoral and marginal agricultural areas to say the government had time to prepare for the same.

As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes were expected through from early December last year in areas of Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, and Laikipia, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance.

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