Kenya: Food security warning after rains fail

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 17 December 2009 (IRIN) - Food insecurity in parts of northern Kenya could deteriorate after poor rains in the October to December season, following a prolonged drought, warn experts. The rains had been forecast to be El-Niño-enhanced, raising prospects of improved food security, but there was a lengthy dry spell in November.

In the northwestern Turkana region, only a few areas had rain in October after below-normal March to June long rains, according to a December update by the USAID-supported Famine Early Warning Systems Network, FEWS Net, which added that "food insecurity is likely to deteriorate substantially in coming months, compounded by human and livestock disease upsurge, conflict, and higher-than-normal food prices".

Neighbouring northwestern areas such as Baringo, western Marsabit, parts of Samburu and West Pokot are also expected to be affected due to the poor rains, it added, noting that pastoralists would migrate to neighbouring areas where there have been good rains. However, migrations could bring increased conflict over pasture.

"Food security could precariously decline among the northwestern pastoral households already faced with heightened conflict, a cholera epidemic, and unrelenting high food prices," it warned.

The northwest has recorded the highest number of conflict-related pastoral fatalities between January and October and is currently affected by a cholera outbreak that claimed at least 24 lives in Pokot as of 10 December.

"In parts of Turkana there has been just 12mm of rain in the last three months," said Oxfam International on 17 December, noting that the next rains are not due until April 2010 in most of the driest locations. Also affected are northern parts of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, and Ethiopia's Central Highlands and Ogaden region.

"In many areas this is the fourth, fifth or sixth season of poor rains in a row.

"More must be done to invest in helping these communities cope with the dry years - through long-term rural development and investing in national agriculture. But in the short term lives are at stake and emergency aid is needed now," said Jeremy Loveless, Oxfam's deputy humanitarian director.