Poverty, food insecurity, undernutrition and income inequality remain high in Kenya, particularly in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs). The drought-prone nature of the ASALs has exacerbated vulnerabilities and has led to chronic emergency responses, driven by high food insecurity and acute malnutrition rates.
Record-high rainfall during the March–May long rains has boosted harvests and improved livestock body conditions, decreasing food prices and significantly improving food security across the country, the Government of Kenya (GoK) reports. As of August, an estimated 700,000 people were acutely food insecure and required humanitarian assistance—a reduction of more than 70 percent compared to approximately 2.55 million acutely food-insecure people identified in February.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) also reports significant improvements in countrywide food security in Kenya, with Minimal (IPC 1) acute food insecurity expected to prevail through early 2019 in most of the country, particularly in southern and western Kenya.* However, Stressed (IPC 2) levels of acute food insecurity will likely persist through at least January 2019 in pastoral areas and among poor households.
Kenya hosts more than 468,000 refugees, according to the UN. As of September, Kenya hosted 256,300 Somali and 114,800 South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict and food insecurity. While the number of Somali refugees has decreased since 2016 due to repatriations, the number of South Sudanese has increased as insecurity worsens in South Sudan.
*The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a standardized tool that aims to classify the severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity. The IPC scale, which is comparable across countries, ranges from Minimal (IPC 1) to Famine (IPC 5).
USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) partners with the UN World Food Program (WFP) to provide relief and build resilience among the most vulnerable populations in Kenya’s ASAL counties. Kenyans receive U.S. in-kind food aid or cash transfers in exchange for work on improving community assets, such as constructing water catchments. These activities promote resilience by improving chronically poor households’ abilities to adapt to drought, and strengthening and diversifying livelihoods. WFP provides specialized nutrition products as a supplement for children under five years of age and pregnant and lactating women in areas with the highest levels of acute malnutrition. FFP also enables the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to provide treatment of severe acute malnutrition in the ASALs and among refugees.
FFP also supports refugees living in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps, and in the Kalobeyei settlement and host communities, through direct food distributions, education on maternal and child health, and livelihoods training. FFP also supports WFP’s refugee operations by providing cash transfers and support for local procurement of specialized nutrition products.