The Kenya Red Cross has raised the alarm over malnutrition in children in counties affected by the ongoing drought.
Speaking during relief food distribution in Taita-Taveta, Bernard Ndingila of the organisation’s disaster response department said over 600,000 children under five years old are malnourished and require urgent interventions to prevent deaths.
He added that 96,000 nursing mothers are also affected by the drought.
"Breastfeeding mothers and children are feeling the effects of drought through malnutrition because of lack of food, and they require urgent support before we start losing lives,” he said.
Over 1,000 households received relief food donated by the Last Resort Organization.
Mr Ndingila said the Red Cross activated its disaster response operations at the sub-county level in 14 counties severely affected by drought.
He said the initiative aims to assist in coordinating interventions for supporting people affected by the drought.
“We have activated full disaster operations in the country, teamed up to the sub-county levels for coordination purposes to ensure all victims get … relief support,” he said.
The counties are in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country.
He asked well-wishers to work with the disaster teams in sub-counties.
Signs of drought that were seen in April this year, he said, triggered the activation.
Initially, only four counties in northern Kenya had been affected, and that number has risen to 14.
He said Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu counties are affected in the Coastal region.
In Taita-Taveta, Taveta and parts of Wundanyi are affected.
Mr Ndingila said the Red Cross supports families in the affected areas with relief food, cash transfers and water.
Many water sources in the area have dried up.
Other target areas are Mahoo and Kamtonga in Mwatate.
Over 70,000 people are affected by drought in Taita-Taveta.
Apart from drought, human-wildlife conflicts are intensifying.
Wild animals from Tsavo National Park are crossing over to the communities in search of water.
Kishusho Chief David Mwandahina said the area last received short rains in March.
“The rains could not sustain any farming, the reason we are starving,” he said.
He appealed for more well-wishers to donate food and water to residents.
“We are appealing for more relief food because the number of people in need is high. Not all families manage to get food when there is a donation, because we are many,” he said.
He added that domestic animals do not have pasture and water.
"We have seen cows and goats die from diseases related to the drought. Many livestock will die if there are no urgent interventions," she said
Ms Loice Mwange, from Kamtonga village, said many residents depend on farming and livestock keeping for their livelihood.
“We always depend on food that we produce from our farms, but there were no rains for two seasons. Now, we are sleeping hungry because we had no yields,” she said.
But she said that as much as residents concentrate on farming, their crops are sometimes destroyed by elephants.
Ms Beatrice Mwakio, from Mlilo village, said the area is also affected by water shortages.
She said residents must climb to the top of the Mwanjila or Mbulia hills to fetch water.
“Not everybody can climb the hill, unless you are strong. We have to walk long distances for about three hours to get water,” she said.
She added that sometimes even the weak must climb the hill when alternative water sources have dried up.
Mr Josiah Mwadime, from Ndigai village, who has a disability, appealed for more support from the government and well-wishers.
“People with disabilities are badly affected by the drought. We are struggling to survive because the majority cannot go out to look for food and water,” he said