Nairobi — The National Government has announced a Sh2 billion funding to facilitate ongoing food relief programs and water trucking in 13 counties facing food scarcity.
Government estimates indicate 865,000 people in Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL) counties of Samburu, Marsabit, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Baringo, Kilifi, Tana River, West Pokot, Makueni, Kajiado, and Kwale are currently facing food insecurity.
Overall estimates show 1.1 million citizens countrywide are facing starvation.
According to Deputy President William Ruto, the new funding to be channelled through the Ministries of Devolution and Agriculture, is in addition to Sh12.4 billion set to be disbursed through the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection via cash transfers to 1.3 million vulnerable persons including the elderly.
"The Devolution Cabinet Secretary has already hit the road with intervention that government had in the budget so what we're releasing this afternoon is additional resources to back up the kitty under the Devolution Ministry," Ruto announced Monday.
"County Governments have ongoing mechanism of intervention and therefore National Government Ministries will proceed to support ongoing efforts without delay," he directed after chairing a meeting attended by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), and Simon Chelugui (Water) at Harambee House Annex.
The DP said the government had put measures in place to strengthen distribution of food in counties facing shortages assuring that the Kenya's food security situation was stable.
Ruto said the drought situation in the country had been triggered by poor performance of short rains.
He however said an assessment by a multi-agency team comprising the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) had shown stress levels were significantly lower compared to previous years.
"There should be no cause for alarm at the moment. The government has put in place intervention to manage the current drought and we will work together with other humanitarian agencies to ensure there are no casualties," the DP assured.
Ruto said the State Department for Livestock had guaranteed stable livestock conditions - a major means of livelihood in ASAL counties.
"The vegetation situation in the country, the body condition of livestock, and availability of food gives us a position on when the government should intervene, the first line of intervention being County Governments," he said.
NDMA Chief Executive Officer James Oduor who attended the Harambee House Annex meeting denied reports of deaths as a result of starvation in Baringo and Turkana Counties saying a prior advisory had been issued to facilitate timely response by both levels of government.
"Yes, deaths have been reported. But the reports we've gotten from our multi-agency team on ground have not linked the reported deaths directly to drought. We're not where we were in 2017. We're not in an emergency," Oduor stressed.
The Meteorological Department earlier on Monday attributed the prevailing drought situation in ASAL counties to a tropical cyclone that has reduced the accumulation of much-needed moisture for precipitation.
The agency's Acting Director, Stella Aura, however said near-normal rainfall will be experienced in Western, Rift Valley, and Central parts of the country in the first week of April.
"The March-April-May seasonal rainfall onset was expected to be timely over several parts of the country. However a tropical cyclone located in the Mozambican channel for several days has played a key role in delaying the northward movement of the rain-bearing intra-tropical convergence zone," she said.
According to Aura, the cyclone "significantly reduced moisture influx into the country leading to continued sunny and dry conditions in most parts of the country."
She noted that temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius had been recorded in some parts of the country, with Mandera recording a 41 degrees Celsius reading.
She said flash-floods could be experienced in parts of western region especially Budalang'i.
She reported a probability of landslides in parts of Murang'a.
The Meteorological Department's Deputy Director Bernard Chanzu told Capital FM News there was need to put in place water-harvesting mechanisms in place to ensure rain water was collected for irrigation purposes.