4.4 million Kenyans still in need of food relief despite rains

relief food

Workers offload relief food from a lorry at Kosele Stadium in Rachuonyo South Sub-county in Homa Bay County on March 31, 2023. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

Kenyans in several parts of the country are still in need of relief food despite the ongoing rains, the government has said in an update on the longest drought experienced in the country so far.

Ms Rebecca Miano, the Cabinet Secretary for East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs)and Regional Development, said 21 out of the 23 ASAL counties remain under drought stress following five consecutive failed rain seasons and the late onset of the March-May long rains season.

“While the onset of the rainy season is a most welcome relief, it does not resolve food security challenges instantaneously. Consequently, I implore our benefactors to continue pooling resources to counter challenges posed by the drought suffered in recent times until the situation changes for the better,” CS Miano said.

She said that the October-December short rains season assessment, that was done in January-February, shows that 4.4 million people in ASAL counties and a further 495,362 people in nine non-traditional ASAL counties remain in need of food assistance.

“Over 970,000 children under five years and over 142,000 pregnant and lactating mothers suffer acute malnutrition and therefore require therapeutic feeding,” she said in a statement on Thursday,

She added that under the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), 3.6 million Kenyans are in the crisis phase and 800,000 in the emergency phase.

Marsabit and Turkana counties remain in the emergency drought phase while eight counties - Isiolo, Kajiado, Madera, Samburu, Tana River, Wajir, Kitui, and Kilifi - are in the alarm drought phase.

The number of children exposed to the risk of malnutrition is of concern in Baringo, Nyeri, Kajiado, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, Tana River, Makueni, Marsabit, Turkana, Embu, Kwale, Samburu, Meru, Kitui, Tharaka Nithi, Garissa and Taita Taveta counties.

In terms of mitigation measures taken so far, CS Miano reported that in March 2023 alone, the government spent Sh1.2 billion on drought response across the country.

She said the private sector-led National Steering Committee on Drought Response distributed relief food worth Sh400 million to affected households in the 23 ASAL counties under the Wakenya Tulindane initiative.

Additionally, the ministry said, relief assistance was scaled up in pockets of drought-affected non-traditional ASAL counties.

The CS further said the government of President William Ruto has continuously activated drought recovery plans in all affected counties as it embarks on building the resilience of affected communities against foreseeable shocks.

“Working on the principle of ‘building back better’, the government used Sh40 million to desilt water pans as well as shallow wells ahead of the onset of the rains,” she said.