19 January 2019

Kenya: Thousands of Kenyans Facing Acute Starvation After Harsh Weather - Report

Thousands of Kenyans are facing starvation, according to the National Drought Management Authority.

It says that at least 23 counties are facing drought, several weeks after short rains ended across the country.

Arid and semi-arid counties have been warned to expect a decline in food, water and pasture in the coming weeks and the authority has issued a drought alert warning for seven counties.

It says the state of food security has been deteriorating since November when only three counties faced a drought alert.

GERMINATION

Counties whose drought conditions are deteriorating are Kitui, although conditions are improving because of the just concluded short rains, Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Tana River.

The situation in Garissa, Tharaka, Mandera, Wajir, West Pokot, Meru (North) and Kilifi is worsening quickly, warns the authority in its latest report, adding that Isiolo, Laikipia, Taita Taveta, Lamu, Embu, Kajiado, Baringo, Makueni, Nyeri (Kieni) and Narok are stable.

"The declining trend is attributed to the poor rainfall performance observed during the month of December," says the report.

The meteorological department had indicated that most parts of the country would experience enhanced rainfall towards the end of last year but according to the authority, the October to December rains were late and poorly distributed in terms of space and time ending up with a negative impact on crop production.

In counties such as Kitui, Baringo, Laikipia and Nyeri the delayed onset of the rains and the ensuing dry spells resulted in poor germination which compelled farmers to replant.

About 80 per cent of farmers in Kieni in Nyeri "did not replant due to the high cost of farm inputs leading to a decrease in the total area under crop.

NUTRITION

Pastoralists will be hit by the dry conditions with the authority warning that the distances to the shortest watering points have wid-ened because water sources such as pans and dams recharged at below normal capacity during the rains. The most affected areas are Turkana, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, Kajiado, Kilifi, Baringo, Kwale, Narok, Makueni and Meru.

"Rainfall deficits during the short rains season have negatively impacted on water and pasture conditions resulting to prospects for poor crop and below average livestock production, which is likely to lead to a decline in food security until the start of the 2019 long rains season in March," says the report.

Due to the above normal rainfall experienced between March and May 2018, food security improved.

However, it is declining "due to erratic rainfall performance during the October to December short rains season," states the report.

The Global Hunger Index ranks Kenya at position 77 out of 119 countries in the developing world on food security.

According to its annual report, hunger in Kenya is still 'alarming' and one in every three Kenyans (14.5 million) suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition annually.

"Extreme poverty, poor governance coupled with climate change have resulted in growing numbers of people suffering from hun-ger," says the report published by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.

VARIABILITY

"Although the country trend has improved over time, Kenya's hunger and under-nutrition situation remains troubling due to ex-treme poverty, climate change and other natural disasters," it adds.

With greenhouse gases hitting a record high in 2018 with no hope of maintaining temperatures below two degrees Celsius accord-ing to the United Nations Environment, the situation is expected to worsen the ravages of climate change.

The World Bank, in a research report which was presented during the recently concluded Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi said communities in the tropics are under threat of losing livelihoods and food.

"Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, and where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture," says the Food and Agri-culture Organisation (FAO) in its 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released in September 2018.

Kenya was at a crisis level of 8.4 during the 2017 drought but the situation improved in 2018 with most places recording bumper harvests.

According to FAO, the number of undernourished people in 2017 around the world was estimated to be 821 million while in Africa, food insecurity is increasing in all the sub-regions.

"A high burden of acute malnutrition in areas or countries affected by drought and floods, including northern Kenya, the Sindh province in Pakistan, Ethiopia and Madagascar has been witnessed," it states.

ALARMING

During the 2015-2016 drought, there were conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in several parts of the country after herds were driven into farmlands in search of food and water.

In the counties of Kitui and Taita Taveta, hundreds of camels were driven into private farms.

"If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people's livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes," says the organisation.

While globally Kenya scored poorly in the hunger index, it has improved in the past few years and was ranked above Chad and Cen-tral African Republic (CAR) which were at position 118 and 119 respectively. Rwanda was ranked 91, Tanzania 95 and Uganda 105.

"If you look at it on an annual basis, you may not see much progress, but if you look at it from a five-year or 10-year time frame, it is quite encouraging because it moved from a very alarming state to a serious state. There has been progress, but we still have work to do because the score is still not nor-mal," said Ms Amina Abdalla, the country representative of Concern Worldwide.

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