Emergency Decision to strengthen the resilience of local populations in Kenya to the effects of the drought cycle on human and livestock health

Originally published


Location of operation: KENYA

Amount of Decision: EUR 5,050,000

Decision reference number: ECHO/KEN/EDF/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population

1.1. - Rationale:

Following successive droughts and seasons of poor rainfall, the failure of the last short rains season from October to December in 2005 has led to a serious deterioration of the situation in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. Northern, Eastern coastal and areas to the South of Nairobi are hardest hit. The prognosis is also far from positive with regards to the long rains period expected from April to June 2006. The information available gathered from the early warning systems(1) indicate that the region will be drier than normal during the long rains period. This will have serious consequences on an already extremely serious drought situation.

This failure of the short rains has already affected communities that are drought prone and food insecure in mainly pastoral areas to the East and North of the country that rely on them. The eastern coastal areas are also marginal and rely on the short rains period for their cereal production. To date, estimated crop losses range between 70-90 %. This loss impacts heavily on the livelihoods of pastoralist communities in the 25 districts of northern Kenya: it erodes their ability to make up the difference to cover their food security deficit through market trading. The pastoralists' food security system relies on livestock. It is rare to see such high numbers of dead cattle. Their deaths are due to lack of water, browse and pasture. FSAU (Food Security Assessment Unit) is estimating that up to 70 % of the cattle in some areas may not make it through the drought. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) thousands more heads of livestock will succumb, if the effects of drought intensify over the coming months. Furthermore, the surplus crop areas have always been in the western highlands of Kenya. These rely on the long rains period from April to June. The harvest for this year (at the time of writing) is still 4 months away. If the long rains fail, there will be serious repercussions for the crop production of the country as a whole.

The aim of the current WFP intervention is to attempt to mitigate the deteriorating nutritional status of vulnerable households, as well as to contribute to the protection of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist livelihoods. The proposed intervention is to support the transportation of emergency food aid only, not to purchase it. While the commercial sector, despite high production, brings in very little maize or other food commodities to the drought affected areas, the GoK is nevertheless purchasing the surplus harvest and has allocated to date 60,000 MT to WFP's EMOP (Emergency Operation) for general food distribution. Undoubtedly, GoK own distribution system is far from effective, albeit such a process does benefit from political transparency. In the past, the maize harvest in the West was not used to the benefit of the drought affected areas targeted by food aid in the east.

According to the current food security needs assessment (which looks at national livelihoods profiles combined with poverty surveys) which determine the food gaps that cannot be met through market purchases, the food aid ration allocation is also estimated to be at 50 % and 75 % of the normal ration depending on the area, not yet at 100 %. Through the livelihood profiles, poverty data and food security assessments, the gap requirements for food aid have been estimated.

If the long rains are poor, WFP will likely need to continue feeding an estimated 3.5 million people for the whole of 2006. They have been feeding 1.4 million people since 2004. If the long rains fail completely, there is a greater possibility of a worse case scenario with livelihood erosion requiring a much larger intervention, and an increase in the food aid allocation.

The risk to human health is also high. Eastern Kenya bears testimony to some of the highest malnutrition rates ever recorded (up to 40 % in some hot spots). It has a chronic malnutrition rate of 20 % which is now, in some communities, thought to be normal. This is unacceptable. Significantly, mortality rates are not available due to the poor functioning of the health system in these parts of the country.

Despite the need for improved needs assessments(2), including for food aid interventions to be complimented with other interventions in such as health, water and sanitation, nutritional interventions and livestock support, the food aid component is considered essential as it is intended to supplement the nutritional intake of the population to bolster their resilience in the absence of other usual food security measures.

One of the main challenges is reaching the beneficiaries with food and other commodities due the logistical impediments of poor infrastructure and the financial ones of high costs. In its latest assessment, WFP estimates that 3.5 million beneficiaries in 25 districts are in need of food aid, including 500,000 school children in drought affected areas. The present decision will complement the ongoing activities under the European Commission's drought related decisions of 06.02.2006 for the Horn of Africa (EUR 5 M) and of 15.12.2005 for Kenya (EUR 2 M). It is a short-term response to the food needs of a marginalized population in a current crisis and fills a vacuum in European Commission response.


(1) UK Meteorological Office December 2005 Projected Precipitation March, April and May 2006.

(2) Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO (DG ECHO) has been contributing to WFP's SENAC (Strengthen Emergency Needs Assessment Capacity) since 2004. This covers an integration of the market component which will examine the role of the markets in emergencies through studies assessing cross border trade, national import capacity and open market based responses as well as non-food responses to food insecurity in emergencies. The first results are expected in the first or second trimester of 2006.