'I hope this is the last time', says Ruto as he flags off relief food to drought-hit Kenyans

President Ruto addresses nation on drought crisis

President William Ruto has committed to end the perennial cycle of Kenyans losing their lives and livelihoods due to drought.

Speaking at State House, Nairobi, yesterday, the President outlined several interventions the government would implement to ensure no Kenyan dies of starvation.

He said about 3.5 million Kenyans are severely affected by the effects of the ongoing drought which has hit 23 counties.

While flagging off 50 trucks carrying assorted food items to be distributed to drought-hit regions, Dr Ruto said the current situation has been exacerbated by the lack of adequate rains in the country for the last four years.

He, however, pledged that the government would be better prepared going forward as the country grapples with the effects of climate change by coming up with long-term solutions.

“It is my hope that this will be among the last times we are doing this kind of ceremony where Kenyans are facing starvation and we have to do this,” said President Ruto.

He went on: “It is possible for us going into the future to have a much more proactive approach to situations like this so that we manage them ahead of time and avoid crises like the one we are in.”

Among the interventions, he said, county governments would make provisions in their budgets to make available additional resources to take care of drought.

Consequently, he directed Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who is the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) chairman, to ensure county governments are facilitated to adjust their budgets to have the resources available.

“I have also asked the Treasury to work with the counties so that they can favourably consider adjustments of the various interventions required to make matters easy for Kenyans to deal with the current situation,” he said.

Further, he said the government was working to ensure Kenya’s agriculture transits from rain-fed to irrigation-based.

He said the government would work with the private sector to come up with a law to create provision for water purchase agreement. This will make it possible for the private sector to sell water to the government as part of a bigger plan in ensuring the country becomes a food-secure nation.

“We now have a plan of action to build on the plan that existed before so that we can efficiently and expeditiously deal with the effects of drought in the various parts of the country,” said President Ruto.

In the short term, Dr Ruto directed the ministry in charge to ensure water is delivered to the affected parts as well as map out areas that require water bowsers across the country to address the challenge.

He said the government would also mobilise resources for the animal offtake programme by working with the Kenya Meat Commission to purchase weak livestock from pastoralists during drought.

Further, the President said the government was in the process of providing fertiliser across many parts of the country.

“I want to ask all farmers who had cut back on acreage under food production that the government will support them fully so that we can produce sufficient food to take care of our food requirement as a country,” he said.

The President praised the development partners engaged in the distribution of relief food and cash transfers, saying he would be meeting them tomorrow to harmonise the efforts to avoid duplication.

“We want to make sure the food gets to the right beneficiaries and there are no issues of integrity around distribution to those in need. I look forward to making sure this situation is managed and we don’t lose any citizens to hunger because of the drought situation we have in the country,” he said.

He further pointed out that an agreement had been reached with the National Treasury and concerned ministries to make resources available so that the next consignment can be flagged off on Friday.

“And on a weekly basis, we will assess the situation and see what these interventions will mean for the people around the country and what additionally can be done as we go into the future,” he said.

Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru said the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is projected to increase to 4.35 million by next month.

She said the worsening household food security situation had resulted in acute malnutrition rates noted across the counties.

She said 942,000 cases of children aged between six and 59 months were acutely malnourished and 134,000 cases of pregnant or lactating women in need of treatment.