State to send Sh680m to needy families as millions face starvation

Government Spokesperson Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna distributes rice to a resident of Lungalunga in Kwale County.  The government will spend Sh680 million in a cash transfer programme to supplement relief food distribution in areas affected by drought.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group

Some 2.7 million Kenyans in 23 counties are still in dire need of food as the drought worsens.

The government says it will use Sh680 million in a cash transfer programme to supplement relief food distribution in the affected areas.

“The President stated that no Kenyan should die because of hunger and this is one of the plans we are putting in place to cushion the lives of those affected by drought,” said government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna on Thursday.

He spoke in Kilifi and Kwale counties when he supervised relief food distribution under the ‘Caravan of Hope’ programme.

The state has purchased 52,000, fifty-kilo bags of rice and 44,000 bags of beans in the first phase of the programme.

“The are other areas where the government will include canned meat in the food package. Not every county will have this because we will consider the environment they live in,” he said.

The canned meat is made from animals purchased by the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) from farmers.

Mr Oguna explained that the relief food does not rule out the cash transfer programme that is also going on in counties affected by drought and where residents receive Sh3,000 every month.

“The relief food was not there before, because we would only give cash transfers. But we have decided that people should not die as they wait for the money. That is why the food is being distributed. This is just to ensure they have some food as they wait for the money,” he said.

The affected counties are Kwale, Lamu, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, Tana River, Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, Baringo, Kajiado, Narok, Laikipia, Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Kitui, Marsabit, Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa and Mandera.

Kwale, with at least 200,000 people affected by hunger, has received up to Sh78 million. Kilifi has received 4,500 bags of rice and 3,600 bags of beans targeting 10,019 residents. 

The government has also spent another Sh350 million in water trucking this year alone in the 23 counties for cooking and drinking.

He said other than the cash transfers, there was a livestock offtake programme in the second phase of the drought mitigation programme.

In this case, farmers will sell their cows, goats and sheep to the government, which will buy and slaughter them on the spot and distribute the meat to residents.

The government is also giving out Sh2,000 in monthly stipends to the elderly and people with disabilities.

“We want to ensure that no one Kenyan dies from hunger. Therefore, this programme will continue until the time God will decide to bring rain,” he said.

Mr Oguna urged county commissioners in counties receiving the relief food to ensure that they communicate to the principal secretaries in relevant departments for a refill when supplies run out.

Kwale County Commissioner Gideon Oyagi appreciated the government’s efforts, saying the supplies will ensure the people have enough food until rains return and people can cultivate crops.

Among those expected to benefit from the programme in Kwale are schools in the drought-stricken areas of Kinango and Lungalunga.

“This will be a multi-agency operation where we will also work with the county government to ensure that water is supplied in places where dams have dried up,” he said.

Mr Oyagi said that committees in those areas will make sure through a free-lunch programme that candidates sitting national examinations eat in school before heading back home after the tests.

A Kenya Meteorological Department forecast for the March, April and May long rains shows that near average rainfall is expected over the north-eastern and Coast regions. Enhanced rainfall is expected in the Lake Victoria basin, Central, South Rift Valley, North-West and Highlands East of the Rift Valley, including Nairobi.