Nairobi — About 2.1 million people in Kenya's Arid and Semi- Arid Lands (ASAL) are food insecure due to failed rains, low agricultural production and high food prices.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report for the period between July and October 2021 estimates the proportion of those affected to be about 14 per cent of the country's population.
The report documented a 34 per cent increase (by over 700,000 people) of people classified in crisis and emergency stage compared to the same period in 2020.
"The deterioration and severity of food insecurity are mainly attributed to two consecutive poor performances of seasonal rainfall," the report said.
Populations in Baringo, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River, Turkana and Wajir were identified as the hardest hit by the food crisis. The affected counties depend on pastoralism as their main source of livelihoods.
During the projected period running from November 2021 to January 2022, the population in crisis stage is also expected to rise from 1.8 million people to about 2 million people while the population in the emergency stage is likely to increase from 355,000 to 368,000.
"Nine counties are expected to host a significant proportion of the population in IPC Phase 3 or above. Baringo County is expected to shift from Crisis to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), while Lamu and Kwale counties will like see a deterioration from Stressed to Crisis. This assumption is based on the likely continued poor performance of the 2021 'short rains' season (OND), forecast to be below average," said the report.
The report stated that the food security situation could worsen with an increase in the number of people experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity in counties in the ASAL region.
The situation has also led to the rise in malnutrition cases in the affected counties.
"An estimated 652,960 children aged 6-59 months and 96,480 pregnant and lactating women require treatment of acute malnutrition," the report stated.
The report further said that the nutrition situation has remained the same across arid counties compared to the August 2020 analysis where the malnutrition situation was classified as critical in seven counties namely; Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu, Turkana, the North Horr and Laisamis sub-counties in Marsabit County and Tiaty in Baringo County.
The findings of the report emerged two weeks after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared drought that is ravaging parts of the country a national disaster following a meeting with leaders from counties classified as ASALs on September 8.
Following the meeting, President Kenyatta directed the National Treasury and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to spearhead mitigation measures.
The drought was declared in 29 counties classified under ASAL where food insecurity has been experienced in recent months due to lack of consistent rains.
"President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the drought affecting parts of the country a national disaster," State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena said in a statement.
She said government response will include water trucking and relief food distribution as well as livestock uptake.