13 October 2017

Kenya: 3.5 Million Face Starvation Amid Prolonged Drought

At least 3.5 million Kenyans are facing starvation due to the prolonged drought and erratic rains.

The figure is an increase from the 2.6 million projected by the government at the beginning of the year.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett on Thursday said the majority of those affected are from arid and semi-arid counties in northern Kenyan.

This comes even as Mr Bett said the country expects an increase in the amount of maize that will be harvested by the end of this crop year, a situation he argues will help ease the food shortage currently bedevilling the country.

Besides families, millions of domestic and wild animals are also suffering the effects of delayed rains in the Coast and Rift Valley.


In a report on the current national food situation that was released on Thursday, Mr Bett says the ministry has projected a harvest of about 37.9 million bags of maize by the end of 2017, up from 36.9 million bags harvested in the same period last year.

The figure is, however, a drop of about 4.4 per cent of the 40 million bags the ministry had expected at the beginning of the year.

"Of the counties facing starvation, Wajir, Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Garissa, Mandera and Baringo, as well as parts of Kitui and Kajiado, have been listed as the worst hit," said the CS. The armyworm, which destroyed maize in the country's food basket areas of Rift Valley, has also been blamed for the drop in production.

"The decline in overall production of maize was attributed to a reduction in the area under maize by 5.1 per cent, the late onset of rainfall, coupled with long dry spells mid-season and fall armyworm invasion," Mr Bett told journalists at the ministry's headquarters in Nairobi.


At the same time, production of beans and Irish potato will decline by about 29 per cent and 17 per cent respectively due to inadequate certified seeds and poor rainfall.

According to Mr Bett, there will be a slight drop in the production of other food crops such as bananas, sorghum, cowpeas and green grams.

To avert a possible shortage, Mr Bett said the ministry plans to buy all the maize offered by farmers from the 2017 crop.

The purchase will begin on Monday, with farmers offered Sh3,200 per 90-kilogramme bag.

Elsewhere, the government has doubled the food ration being given to starving Kenyans as it seeks to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said his ministry has been giving out a ration of 15 kilogrammes of cereals and cooking oil every two months but will now give the same quantity each month.

He said the increased allocation will run until mid-next year.


"We are aware a few counties are still facing food and pasture shortage. My ministry has already supplied cereals in these counties. The food is enough to last till mid-next year," he told the Nation.

Herders in counties hit hardest by drought have suffered huge losses after their animals died. Others have had to sell their weak animals at a throw-away price of as little as Sh500 a cow.

Mr Kiunjuri said no Kenyan would be denied food due to their political affiliation. "I am warning chiefs and their seniors not to discriminate or deny any person food due to his or her political affiliation. This food is for any Kenyan facing hunger," he said.

Weather reports received by the Devolution ministry from the Metrological Department indicate that normal rains will resume in early March.


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