Millions survive on strands of hope as drought escalates

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original

A visit to the drought stricken counties may easily be traumatizing to the faint hearted due to the human misery evident on the faces and bodies of children, women and men whose only choice is to learn how to survive on empty stomachs.

Kenya is currently facing drought that has affected 2.7 million people who never know where their next meal will come from. To some of the affected, they hang on strands of hope for the appearance of good Samaritans, while others have surrendered their fate to the ravaging drought.

“We have countless challenges. The drought has dried up all our water sources, wiped out our pasture and livestock,” said Umuro Katelo, a resident of Dukana, Marsabit County. “The effects are severe causing mental problems to some people,” Umuro added.

Marsabit County is among 13 counties in the Alarm Stage of drought classification. The other counties classified under the alarm stage include: Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Lamu, Mandera, Wajir, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot and Baringo.

“The worst and sad of it all is others have committed suicide as they could not deal with the suffering, and not one but a number of them,” added Katelo as he pleaded for help from the government and humanitarian institutions.

The Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs) form 80% of Kenya’s land mass and remain highly vulnerable to frequent weather shocks. Apart from the 13 counties classified in the alarm stage, an additional 10 are in the alert stage. These include:

Embu (Mbeere), Kajiado, Kitui, Laikipia, Makueni, Narok, Nyeri (Kieni), Taita Taveta, Meru (North), Tharaka Nithi.

The drought situation in Kenya follows poor performance of the 2016 long rains (March-April-May) and failure of the 2016 short rains (October-November-December) rendering 1.3 million people food insecure as of December 2016.The situation has since escalated, in January 2017 more than 2 million people were facing starvation and as of February 2017, the figure has spiraled to 2.7 million people.

“Currently, 23 out of 47 counties are facing drought and the numbers will continue rising,” said Dr. Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, Kenya Red Cross Society. “Indications are that the April 2017 long rains may not be sufficient. It is therefore our fundamental responsibility to assist the central and county governments to quickly respond to the plight of the affected communities,” Dr. Abbas added.

The Kenya Red Cross Society has been engaged in cash transfers, livestock destocking, relief food distribution, health and nutrition projects as well as water and sanitation initiatives to cushion the drought-affected populations.

As part of KRCS interventions, a first appeal was launched in November 2016 to support 114,620 people in five counties (Kilifi, Kwale, Garissa, Tana River and Makueni) reaching 53,832 people. At the time 1.3 million people were in need of assistance. With the increase to 2.7 million of population requiring assistance, KRCS has since revised the appeal to target 340,786 people in 13 counties currently in the alarm stage.

Alidema Galgalo, is another resident of Marsabit County who has lost a total of 80 livestock out of 115 he owned prior to the drought.

“I have lost 80 of my livestock and even the 35 left are weak,” Alidema Galgalo said. “At this rate, I doubt if they will survive past the month of February,” he added with a look of desperation on his face.

Those affected by the drought like Galgalo have been targeted through KRCS interventions with a focus on 5 key areas; Nutrition Outreaches; Direct Cash Transfers (CTP); Conditional Food Vouchers; Rehabilitation of Key Communal Watering points as well as Animal Off take and Slaughter.

A total of 87,500 people have so far benefitted from cash transfers, 37,500 from food vouchers, another 25,000 from direct food assistance and 85,000 from animal destocking. Under health and nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene, a total of 340,786 have been targeted.

KRCS has equally launched a resource mobilization campaign dubbed #Embrace A Family, a social media campaign that calls on all Kenyans, partners and stakeholders to support KRCS in raising drought mitigation funds. It takes Ksh 3,000 (30 Dollars) to support one family per month and well wishers are being urged to embrace either one or more than one family.

As experts indicate, there is a possibility of a prolonged drought spell until April 2017.

By Noellah Musundi, Kenya Red Cross Society