7 February 2018

Kenya: Famine Strikes Three Counties as Blame Game Ensues

Thousands of families in Embu, Marsabit and Isiolo counties face starvation as drought continues to bite in parts of the country.

In the semi-arid Mbeere North region of Embu County, hundreds of hunger-stricken families are facing a bleak future after the government announced it had exhausted relief food supplies meant for the area.

Mbeere North Deputy County Commissioner Christopher Siele said the food meant for families in Kamangi, Mumori, Iria Itune in Evurori ward, and Kirie and Mutitu in Muminji ward had been depleted and called for intervention.

Mr Siele urged residents to be patient as another food distribution exercise is rolled out.

"What we have given out is not enough as the area is facing a food crisis but, hopefully, more supplies will be distributed soon," he said.

CROPS

He added that the situation had been caused by low rainfall and failure by farmers to plant drought-resistant crops as advised by agricultural experts.

"Farmers here believe in traditional agriculture by planting maize and beans despite the crops failing each harvest season.

"They have been advised several times to plant drought-resistant crops such as sorghum, cassava and certain maize varieties but they have never heeded the call," Mr Siele said.

In Marsabit, the effects of the dry spell could extend for another three months, the county's National Drought Management Authority boss Golicha Guyo said.

RAINFALL

Mr Guyo said the team had begun an assessment in 23 other counties to help the agency in proper planning.

"We received little rainfall during the short rains last year. Most water pans collected little water and are already drying up," Mr Guyo said, adding that pastoralists from Isiolo, Mandera and Wajir counties had moved to Moyale Sub-County in search of the scarce resource, leading to a strain and fast usage of the little available.

Mr Guyo also urged pastoralists to sell some of their livestock in order to keep a manageable number before the drought worsens.

"We have already come up with committees that will meet every week and will come up with the Marsabit County Drought Response Plan as soon as we gather all the necessary information," he said.

MALNUTRITION

In Isiolo, at least 18 out of 100 children under the age of five are malnourished and in dire need of food as drought ravages the region.

County Nutrition Coordinator Saida Abdirahman termed the situation an emergency case with at least 3.3 per cent of children having severe malnutrition.

While addressing the County Steering Group meeting, the officer said the drought is to blame for the worrying trend.

Currently, a medical outreach in 19 areas, supported by the Kenya Red Cross Society, is ongoing.

Ms Abdirahman said distribution of vitamin and micronutrient supplements are under way.

"We want to scale up integrated outreach programmes to 54 sites. Currently, only 19 sites are being supported," she said.

The county government pledged to hire nutritionists to help in addressing the nutritional challenges.

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