More than 3.5 million Kenyans will require relief food until September, the government and experts say.
It is in September when harvests are expected from Kenya’s bread baskets of Rift Valley and Western regions.
Failure of the long rains has severely affected food production in the country.
The most affected are communities in arid and semi-arid regions where malnutrition levels have risen to more than 20 per cent, way above the global acute malnutrition cutline index of 15 per cent.
The expected number of cases to be handled for acute malnourished children under five years is 20,252, while those moderately malnourished are 106,502.
In addition, about 49,758 pregnant and lactating women are moderately malnourished.
Assessments by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group indicate that the long rains have failed in most of the arid and semi-arid districts and the drought situation has worsened since January.
It is expected that some districts will be in drought emergency by early July, a statement from Arid Lands Resource Management Project II communications officer Abiya Abiya said.
It is estimated that the number of the most affected by drought has increased from 2.4 million in January to 3.5 million.
Health facilities have admitted 78 per cent of children affected by severe malnutrition. This is a result of famine compounded by crop and livestock losses, resource-based conflicts and high food and fuel prices.
A mid-season food security assessment undertaken by the government and development partners revealed most areas received 50-70 per cent below normal rains while temporal distribution was poor with long dry spells of up to three weeks after the start of rains.
However, the long rains have been favourable in Western, Nyanza and Rift Valley highlands. According to the Kenya Food Security Meeting, about 1.2 million hectares have been put under cultivation.
This is below the projected 1.9 million hectares because of the shrunken rainfall. Sixty three per cent of the land under cultivation is under maize while beans account for 26 per cent.
Livestock mortality has reached 10-15 per cent and is increasing in Garissa and Wajir. The situation is expected to deteriorate rapidly from July as pasture conditions worsen.
Due to the poor rains, major water sources have not been recharged. With temporal water sources at 30-60 per cent capacity, the water is expected to last one to two months from May.
National maize stocks as at April 30 were 16.9 million bags. Strategic Grain Reserve stocks have 2.5 million bags.
Maize balance sheet indicates that there will be 5.3 million bags at end of July. This will be adequate for one and a half months beginning August when early harvest from South Rift is expected.
However, there have been interventions. Some 678,500 children have received food through the school meals programme while another 1.7 million people have received relief food from the government.
The World Food Programme is also distributing food to 1.6 million people. The Ministry of Water formed four rapid response teams to mitigate drought through repair of boreholes and coordination of water-trucking activities in Marsabit, Wajir, Machakos and Kapenguria.
Forty seven water bowsers are water trucking in 373 centres in affected areas while 37 boreholes have been rehabilitated.
The government has also provided fuel subsidy and spare parts to 101 community water schemes in addition to distribution and installation of 250 plastic water tanks and 300 collapsible tanks and distribution of 100,000 aqua-tabs for water treatment.
The Ministry of Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands has allocated Sh172 million for interventions in coordination, early warning systems, fuel subsidy and peace building mechanisms in 28 districts.
The government has also released Sh70 million for off-take livestock purchase in Eastern Province.
It is also supplying pastoralists in upper and lower parts of the province with concentrates, survival marsh and urea mineral blocks to help keep the livestock healthy as the drought enters its second year.
The deputy provincial director of livestock production, Mr Murimi Nyaga, said the government had given 2,462 range cubes and 2,051 survival marsh to herders.
“We have also issued the farmers with 5,272 urea molasses mineral blocks to supplement the livestock’s mineral intake,” said Mr Nyaga.