Nairobi — At least 23 counties are experiencing drought, the worst of its kind in the country compared to 2011.
Most arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) received below-average rainfall during the long rains season of 2016.
The late onset and poor performance of the short and long rains last year led the extension of the dry season into 2017, according to the National Drought Management Authority CEO James Oduor.
Oduor told Capital FM News that most of the ASAL counties have not received adequate rains and are currently experiencing drought.
"The short rains season started late and has so far performed below par. The quantity and distribution of rainfall has been inadequate, particularly in arid counties and at the Coast. Consequently a widespread vegetation deficit persists," warned Oduor.
He said the government has been closely monitoring the situation and is working with relevant stakeholders to co-ordinate effective short and long-term interventions.
"With the late start and expected early cessation of the rains, all indications are that the drought will persist in 2017. In the affected areas, vegetation has greatly deteriorated and surface waters have all but run dry," Oduor cautioned.
Currently 1.3 million people are affected by the drought with the numbers expected to rise.
Last year, the government approved Sh21.6 billion needed until July 2017 to be used in coordinating relief activities in affected areas.
The money was divided in three phases. Some Sh5.4 billion was allocated for the first phase which covered the November, December and January 2017.
Sh9 billion to cover the second phase from February up to April and Sh7 billion from the month of May until July.
Of the Sh5.4 billion, Sh1.65 billion was allocated to food relief with the quantity of relief distributions expected to be doubled as of this month.
Another Sh713 million was been allocated towards ensuring the supplementary and therapeutic feeding for children under five, the provision of water treatment services and other measures geared towards supporting the health of citizens in drought stricken areas.
Sh1.24 billion was allocated to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation for the drilling, preparation and rehabilitation of boreholes, the purchase and distribution of plastic collapsible tanks and various other water distribution and storage measures.
"Almost all surface water has dried. There is heavy reliance on boreholes, which are congested and prone to breakdown. In some areas there is reliance on permanent rivers," explained Oduor. "The quality of water is deteriorating as the small amounts that remain are contaminated from shared use.
The water crisis experienced in Nairobi as a result of low water levels at the Ndakaini Dam is also blamed on the drought situation.
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries received Sh244 million for the purchase of drought tolerant seeds and the re-positioning of strategic food reserve stocks.
The ministry further received Sh1.3 billion for livestock related interventions including the purchase of hay and concentrates and livestock disease management.
Sh115 million was allocated towards enhanced security measures in various counties and Sh156 million will be distributed as fees subsidy to day secondary schools to enable students maintain school attendances in the face of hard conditions.
Oduor said the multi-faceted interventions will help deal with the various faces and implications of the drought crisis.
"The National and County Governments will continue acting to mitigate the impact of prolonged drought and meet the future needs that will emerge over time," he said.