At least 1.4 million people are facing acute hunger in the country, double the number reported in 2020, a report by the government and the United Nations has warned.
The food security assessment carried out by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG), county steering groups and the UN states that at least 238,000 people are in need of emergency food distribution in eight counties—Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana and Isiolo.
The government and the World Food Programme attribute the increase in the number of people at risk of acute starvation to below normal performance of the short rains thus impacting negatively on an already fragile food security situation in arid and semi-arid areas.
The 2020 Short Rains Season Assessment Report also blames the situation on Covid-19, livestock diseases, the invasion of desert locusts and conflicts and insecurity.
It estimates the impact of the desert locusts invasion to be at least 310 hectares of farmland, amounting to 65 percent of total cropped area and over 7,500 hectares of pasture and browse.
It also blames human-wildlife and inter-ethnic conflicts for the high number of people dependent on food aid, saying that the dwindling forage and water resources, resource-based conflict is on the rise.
The production of milk, the report states, has reduced too because of poor pasture condition and increased trekking distances for the animals.
Turkana, Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit and Samburu top the list of counties that are facing starvation, with the nutrition situation being critical in the regions.
“Overall, an estimated 541,662 children aged between six and 59 months and 98,759 pregnant and lactating women require treatment of acute malnutrition,” the report states.
The government and the UN project that declining rangeland resources will likely keep livestock in the dry season grazing areas up to late April after the onset of the long rains, reducing household milk availability and consumption and reducing livestock sale values.
They also warn of an increase in resource-based conflicts and livestock disease outbreaks in the dry season grazing areas as overcrowding and competition for resources persists that will likely cause insecurity, loss of property, disruption of markets and other livelihood activities.
Already, Samburu, Laikipia and Baringo counties have started reporting cases of hunger and the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) has placed the counties on high alert.
For the past two months, families, especially women, children and the elderly from the northern parts of the county have been trekking for long distances in search of food, water and pasture for their livestock.
Wamba, Achers Post, Baragoi, South Horr, Barsaloi, Suyian, Loonjorin, Opiroi and Nachola are the most affected areas.
In some areas, desperate families have been waking up as early as 4am to sit by the roadside begging motorists for water.
NDMA county coordinator in Samburu, Mr Alex Leseketet, said there has been a water shortage particularly in Samburu East and Samburu North.
“ The situation is getting worse. Pastoralists have been hit by water shortages and pastures have been exhausted,” Mr Leseketet told Nation, adding that Samburu East is the most affected.