27 March 2019

Kenya: Drought in Northwest Leaves Thousands Near Starvation

Kenya's government and aid groups are sending food to Kenya's northwest region, where thousands of Kenyans are starving due to droughts.

"There is hunger and a lot of suffering in the ground," Kenyan Eric Eyan said of the Turkana region. "There are those saying there is no hunger — they should come to the area and see how people are suffering, how livestock is dying, how people have problems with accessing water."

Residents say the drought began two months ago, which is not uncommon in the arid region. Arid and semi-arid lands make up almost 80 percent of Kenya.

Kenya Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa acknowledged the dire situation last week.

"We are here to let the country know that, indeed, the drought situation in the northern part of the country is worsening. Our experts have been able to show us that, indeed, the short rains did not do so well, the 2018 short rain season and the long rains have been delayed," Wamalwa said.

The government set aside nearly $40 million last year to counter the effects of a drought that was declared a national disaster.

Wamalwa says the government is working with local leaders to help the current situation.

"We want to thank Governor [Josphat] Nanok, and the county government of Turkana, which has been greatly affected, for moving fast and putting in place the necessary remedial measures to help his people in Turkana. As of last week, [the governor] had reached out to us that he had more or less exhausted what they had set aside as county government, and they have now requested us as [the] national government to step in," Wamalwa said.

Call for long-term answers

The government says it is distributing food to about 2,000 affected people, but the situation is triggering public anger and a demand for long-lasting solutions.

Many Kenyans on social media say they will not raise funds for drought relief efforts every year and, instead, government leaders should be held accountable.

Eyan agrees that a permanent solution is needed.

"The government should consider permanent solutions in the area, perhaps digging wells or reservoirs and other long-terms solutions that can help the situation," he said.

Aid agencies continue to distribute food, but locals such as Eyan say if a solution is not provided next year, Turkana and other drought-prone areas will be in the news again.


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