Kenya Country Update 22 Sep 2000: Kenya's drought: no sign of any let-up

Situation Report
Originally published
WFP Horn of Africa Alert: Kenya
People affected by drought: 3.3 million
People assisted by WFP aid: 3.3 million
Funds required by WFP: US$102 million

Risks to Food Security

Climate: recurring droughts in northern and eastern regions; flooding during rainy seasons. Droughts in 1991-92 / 1996-97 / 1998-9. Devastating floods caused by El Nino rains in 1997-98.

Poor infrastructure: affects humanitarian access to affected areas. Damaged by El Nino rains in 1997-98.

Environment: deforestation; desertification; soil erosion.

Food Production

Background: Kenya's countryside, still home to three-quarters of the population, keeps 75-80 percent of the total workforce employed in agriculture. But intense competition for arable land is driving ever more people to the cities. Agriculture accounts for 29% of Kenya's GDP. In 1998-99, El Nino rains destroyed crops.

Main products: coffee, tea, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs.

Land use: Arable land = 7%, Permanent crops = 1%, Permanent pastures = 37%, Forests = 30%, Other = 25%

Drought History

Year No's and affected
1965: 260,000
1971: 130,000
1979: 40,000
1984: 600,000
1992: 2.7 m
1994: 1.2 m

The devastating impact of Kenya's worst drought in 40 years looks set to continue beyond December 2000.

Long-range forecasts are grim with below average rainfall predicted for the worst hit pastoralist and agricultural communities in the North and North-East. These are areas which are already reeling from the failure or partial failure of the 2000 long rains season (March-May) and where even normal rainfall would be insufficient to restore water supplies to their normal levels.

Three years of drought, a period which has witnessed successive crop failure, shortage of pasture and water for livestock, is taking a heavy toll on food security. In five of the worst-drought affected areas, 25-30 percent of children are suffering from malnutrition.

Families, both pastoral and agricultural, no longer have the capacity to cope having already used up grain harvested in 1998 and 1999. They are starting to rely on food aid for survival.

Agriculture: successive crop failures have left many families without carry over seeds to replant in the next season

Pastoral : lack of pasture and water has led to a rapid increase in animal deaths in the arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya. Sheep, goats and camels are suffering with losses are calculated at between 20 and 85 percent in northern and northeastern parts of Kenya. In the southern rangelands of Masailand, there has been a mass migration of herds across the border into Tanzania.

WFP Appeals

The failure of the 2000 long rains has exacerbated an already serious drought in areas which were already receiving WFP emergency food aid.

To meet the increased needs, WFP has expanded its relief effort. 2.2 million people will receive general food distributions in 19 districts throughout Kenya. A further 1.1 million school children in 12 drought-hit districts will also receive school meals for six months.

Schools across the country are reporting high student drop-out rates in drought-affected areas, especially among girls. All too often, they are forced to leave school in order to get the jobs that help feed their families. WFP-supplied school meals are a major incentive to poor families to keep their children in school.

From August until December, the planned requirement for WFP general distributions is around 30,000 tons per month to feed the 3.3 million targeted drought victims. The ongoing emergency operation (July to December) has been 34 percent funded.

Copyright © 2000, World Food Programme