Poor rainfall and additional COVID-19 restrictions negatively impact food security
According to CHIRPS satellite rainfall estimates, the March to May long rains have been significantly below average through April. Cumulative rainfall has been less than 55 to 70 percent of normal across much of Kenya. However, localized areas in western and northeastern Kenya have received 95-145 percent of normal rainfall. In the marginal agricultural areas, the poor rainfall is affecting agricultural production, with no germination being reported in parts of Kitui and Meru North. Due to declining household food stocks and below-average casual waged labor opportunities, poor marginal agricultural households are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In pastoral areas, household income and food access are increasingly constrained due to atypical livestock migration, increased insecurity from resource-based conflict and terrorism, reduced milk production and consumption, reducing livestock sale values, and high staple food prices, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
In March, following a significant rise in COVID-19 infections along with a 22 percent test positivity rate, the government implemented additional restrictions for the counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Kajiado, and Machakos, including a cessation of movement order, an 8 pm to 4 am curfew, a ban on meetings, physical learning, and sporting and entertainment activities, and restricting bars and restaurants operations to takeaway only. These restrictions are expected to remain in place at least through May and are reducing economic activity. The below-normal income-earning opportunities constrain food and income access, driving an increase in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among urban poor households.
On March 24, the government gave UNHCR a 14-day ultimatum to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, citing security concerns. However, on April 8, the Kenyan high court barred the closure of the camps for 30 days. A UNHCR report proposes repatriation of the refugees to their countries of origin or abroad; however, the government has expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of specific timelines in the report. A sustainable solution is being negotiated, which will likely seek to avoid the closure of the camps in the near term.