Yet again, Kenya is facing impending drought, and the drylands are already bearing the brunt. Around 3 million people are currently affected, and it is likely the situation will get worse over the coming months. Water and pasture is already in short supply – and as livestock get weaker and their market value decreases, pastoralists have less income to buy food. Malnutrition is rising as families skip meals, take on debts to buy food, and weak cattle are unable to produce vital milk. Families are withdrawing children from school as they migrate with their cattle to find water.
But why does a regular and predictable event like drought always lead to disaster? It’s because too often the response and the media coverage comes too late – after disaster has already struck, when people are hungry and cattle are dying – rather than addressing the issues that make people vulnerable in the first place. Exacerbated by a changing climate, drought is currently inevitable in Kenya. However it is not inevitable that people starve and thousands of animals die as a result.
Why wait until it is too late? With the right action at the right time, hazards such as drought will not always result in disaster, and lives and livelihoods can be saved. The Kenyan government, aid agencies, donors and the media urgently need to re-assess how Kenya deals with drought.