Coast residents to wait longer for second phase of relief food aid


A woman at the Kishenyi dam in Wundanyi, Taita Taveta County. Taita Taveta is reeling from the effects of changing weather patterns that have led to the drying up of two major dams that humans and livestock depend on.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

Starving Kenyans in the Coast region will have to wait longer for the second phase of relief food distribution.

Thousands have no food, with some saying they did not receive even a kilogram of maize in the first phase. They have appealed to humanitarian organisations and the government to continue supplying relief food until they harvest their own crops.

“I visited Mbololo trading centre in Voi sub-county where food was being distributed. I went back empty-handed and we have not seen the government again,” said Taita-Taveta resident John Mghendi.

Tana River County residents said three seasons of drought had robbed them of mature livestock and capital to start farming and it will take time for them to get back on their feet.

"Pasture has not yet picked up despite the rains, and farmers have just started planting. Hunger will end in three months, but for now, we still need help," said Salima Ibrahim.

Because households are large, she said, the food that was distributed was barely enough to last them a month.

Whereas the smallest household consisted of six people, she said, the government gave them 10kg of rice and five kilograms of beans, which have been exhausted.

"We consumed a kilogram of rice a day in our household. It did not last 10 days in my house, and in other homes, it did not run for a week," she said.

But Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana urged residents to take advantage of the rain to grow vegetables and maize.

He said his government in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization was distributing seeds to farmers.

Potential food basket

"We must think big and beyond relief support. We must work hard to be self-reliant and not be dependent on relief support every time. As Tana River County, we are a potential food basket and must give to others," he said.

More than 50,000 people in the county need food aid, said a National Drought Management Authority 9NDMA) report, with children the most affected.

County NDMA Coordinator Abdi Musa said current rains are not enough for planting and may not support pasture development as hoped if the status quo remains.

In Kwale County, the distribution of relief food is expected to move into the second phase.

The government completed the first phase of food aid for needy residents in Samburu, Lungalunga and Kinango sub-counties, said Kwale County Commissioner Gideon Oyagi.

"We are going to begin the second phase starting next month. The government does everything in phases so we are waiting for the next batch to arrive," Mr Oyagi said.

But he did not specify the quantities of food distributed so far.

Governor Fatuma Achani’s administration is depending on well-wishers to supply relief food to needy families affected by drought.

As the dry spell continues in several parts of Kwale, many residents are at risk of hunger.

National examinations

In Taita Taveta County, the government and the Kenya Red Cross Society have begun distributing food in schools to cushion pupils from hunger as they sit for their national examinations.

More than 6,000 candidates in 22 primary and secondary schools have benefited from the programme, said County Commissioner Loyford Kibaara.

"We are now channelling relief food to schools because we don't want the candidates to suffer as they sit for their examinations," he said.

The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations will kick off next week.

The county government, through its Taita Taveta Relief Response Initiative Committee, will distribute food to 82 primary schools in.

Committee chairperson Ali Itambo said well-wishers had provided over 25 tonnes of relief food.

"We are targeting vulnerable families, including [examination] candidates. We have received rain but residents still need food aid," he said.

In Kilifi, leaders have called on the county and the national government to intervene and provide more relief food for schools ahead of the examinations.

They said families are starving as the government goes slow in relief food distribution.

The last relief food distributed was from the national government. It was dispatched by Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro at Bamba Primary School earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, the county government donated relief food to affected areas.

Sokoke Ward Rep Thaura Mweni and his Mwanamwinga counterpart Edward Ziro said hunger was still a threat and examination candidates would be affected.

Reports by Stephen Oduor, Maureen Ongala, Siago Cece and Lucy Mkanyika