More than three million Kenyans face starvation

Foodstuffs trucks

From left: Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia,Safaricom Chairman Michael Joseph,M-Pesa Foundation Chair Nicholas Nganga, Head of KCB Foundation Caroline Wanjeri and Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama flag of trucks with foodstuffs on April 11, 2022 in Nairobi. The corporates launched the Pamoja Tuungane initiative to provide food relief for Kenyans facing starvation due to the ongoing drought.


Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Experts urge governments to invest in climate change adaptation as corporates offer food donations.
  • Ongoing drought has led to shortage of water, wiping away the livelihoods of many in dry areas.


Some 3.1 million Kenyans are facing starvation due to the biting drought in some parts of the country, with experts warning that the afflicted need urgent intervention.

Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said those affected are in arid and semi-arid lands (Asals) that have experienced drought, blamed on three failed rain seasons.

Prof Kobia said this during the launch of the Pamoja Tuungane campaign by the private sector. She also flagged off emergency relief supplies worth Sh100 million to 20,000 households affected by drought in Marsabit County, which has more than 250,000 people affected by the drought.

She also disclosed that the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) had released 144 tonnes of corned beef worth 168 million towards the drought response. This will also cover the school feeding programme.

“The campaign we are launching today complements the government’s ongoing interventions, which include the initial allocation of Sh2 billion to assist the affected households through relief food distribution, water trucking and a livestock offtake programme,” said Prof Kobia.

The seven counties worst hit by the drought are Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, Baringo, Isiolo and Mandera. These same counties have been placed in the alarm phase in a drought and food security report released on April 3. The report showed that 10 others – Kwale, Kitui, Garissa, Meru (North), Nyeri (Kieni), Laikipia, Lamu, Laikipia, Kilifi, and West Pokot – counties are in the alert phase.

She explained that through the livestock offtake programme, KMC purchased 11,250 cattle and 3,200 sheep and goats from October to date from the most affected counties.

Livestock facing death

This, however, is a drop in the ocean compared to the 8,991,327 cattle and 39,866,730 sheep and goats facing death in Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana, Garissa, Isiolo, Mandera, Tana River, Wajir, Baringo, Kilifi and Meru counties, according to the drought and food security situation report released on April 3, 2022. Garissa County, for example, has recorded the highest number of livestock deaths at 110,041 cattle, 510,048 sheep and goats, and 14,850 camels. 

The same report shows that due to food insecurity, Baringo, Narok, Mandera, Nyeri, Samburu, Tana River, Marsabit and Taita-Taveta counties have registered a higher proportion of children at risk of malnutrition above the long-term average. The risk of opportunistic diseases and malnutrition rates also remain high and may keep rising, added the report.

It adds: “... resources need to be mobilised to support humanitarian efforts on a timely and proactive basis”. It also suggests a need to shift from conventional relief food to cash transfers.

In a bid to show support to the hungry, Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama called on corporates to come together to raise funds as he pledged to use the media house’s platforms to raise awareness.

“As an organisation, our mission is to positively influence society with a mandate to be a voice for the voiceless in the community. Right now, the voiceless are fellow Kenyans who have been hard hit by the ongoing drought. Over the last few weeks, we have highlighted their plight across our print, broadcast and digital platforms,” he said.

“We commit to deploy our platforms through this partnership with Safaricom and other like-minded organisations to continue creating awareness about the current situation and galvanize action towards ensuring that no other Kenyan dies of hunger,” he added.

Hardest hit counties

Safaricom committed Sh100 million for foodstuffs to be donated to households in seven hardest hit counties, as its CEO, Peter Ndegwa, asked Kenyans to donate their Bonga points or cash to the cause. Safaricom customers who want to donate can dial *126# and select Pamoja Tuungane.

Naivas, one of Kenya’s largest supermarket chains, showed its support through supply of food hampers and provision of free transport logistics while the KCB Foundation pledged an immediate Sh2.5million relief support as well as long-term support through training and equipping farmers to mitigate against the impacts of climate change.

Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) said about 3.5 million Kenyans are in dire need of food. Painting a grim picture of the situation at a press conference, the authority said that the Igad Climate Prediction and Applications Centre projects that the dry season will continue until some time in May.

Across the Igad region, about 29 million people are experiencing food shortages.

“We have to act now and have an emergency response in the affected areas. Our voice has to be louder and clear and the response should be immediate and unconditional,” said Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, Igad’s executive secretary.

Igad said the impact of the drought has led to severe water and pasture shortages, leading to reduced food production, livestock losses and wildlife, and resource-based conflict in the affected regions.

Ms Alessandra Casazza, Nairobi’s manager at the United Nations Development Programme’s Resilience Hub said it is time governments took up long term resilience by stepping up climate financing for mitigation and adaptation.

“We need to start investing in climate change adaptation. The drought crisis is not new, it is cyclic and it keeps coming back with greater intensity. We need to look at the future and find a solution to this problem,” she said.

In the budget that was read by Treasury Cabinet secretary Ukur Yatani last week, the country set aside Sh6.1 billion for climate financing.