Kenya intensifies drought response in semi-arid counties

KILIFI, KENYA - 2021/10/07: A cow, gaunt due to hunger and thirst heads to drink water from Ngite water pan the only one remaining in the area due to drought. Residents of Kilifi, Lamu, and Tana River along with their livestock in the Coastal region of Kenya are facing starvation due to the ongoing drought. (Photo by Boniface Muthoni/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Kenyan government has ramped up distribution of emergency food aid, cash transfer and water trucking in drought-stricken semi-arid counties to avert a humanitarian crisis, an official said Tuesday.

Cyrus Oguna, the government spokesperson, said the ongoing drought mitigation measures target about 2.8 million citizens in 23 arid and semi-arid counties who have borne the brunt of crop failure and livelihoods disruption due to failed rains.

“In order to alleviate the suffering of people affected by drought, the government has rolled out intervention measures that include emergency relief cash transfer, physical food distribution and water trucking to cater for livestock and domestic use,” Oguna said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Kenya has been in the grip of a climate change-induced drought since late 2020 that has escalated hunger, malnutrition, water stress and resource-based skirmishes in the country’s vast arid lands.

According to Oguna, 14 counties are in a critical situation due to the prolonged dry spell while nine counties are moderately affected by the phenomenon.

So far, 225,705 households in the counties affected by drought have benefitted from emergency cash transfers initiated by the government in December 2021, with each family receiving 3,000 shillings (about 26 U.S. dollars) monthly stipend to purchase food, said Oguna.

He revealed that 63,100 bags of rice weighing 50 kg each have been supplied to food-insecure households in addition to 800 cartons of corned beef and 62,000 bags of beans weighing 50 kg each.

Oguna said the government had allocated 3.9 million U.S. dollars to purchase livestock on the brink of starvation even as implementation of long-term interventions to boost the resilience of communities affected by drought gathers steam.

The long-term climate resilience measures include the construction of infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events, early warning, revamping health and education facilities, according to Oguna.

He added that human capital development and conflict resolution have been prioritized to tame the negative impact of climate emergencies in arid lands.