This case study is one in a series of five research pieces which fed into the analysis for The State of the Humanitarian System 2018.This research was conducted and written in April 2018.
Successive episodes of drought and failed harvests, migrations, displacements, food insecurity and economic shocks affecting the most vulnerable have all created an ongoing need for humanitarian aid in Kenya and a response that has evolved over the past decade.
An overlooked crisis
The 2016–2017 drought in the Horn of Africa is described as one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in decades (OCHA, 2017d). Notwithstanding this, the international community’s attention has focused elsewhere, such as the deteriorating situations in Syria and the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, and since Kenya was classified as a lower middleincome country in 2014 (World Bank, 2015). Along with drought, Kenya has been managing a refugee crisis. All this during a general election year in a country with a history of civil violence in times of elections.
Key impacts of this drought crisis were displacement, migration and increased reports of disease outbreaks (due to water shortages), directly affecting an estimated 2.6 million people (OCHA, 2017c). Malnutrition rates in some arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) are extremely critical. Livestock conflicts and deaths have been reported. In northern Kenya, parts of Marsabit, Wajir and Turkana face conflicts between pastoralists, severe security challenges from Al-Shabaab attacks and intercommunal violence, which restrict access to these areas for humanitarian workers or Kenyan authorities. Severe protection issues are reported and some sectors, such as education and health, have not been prioritised for funding.
Despite many constraints, the humanitarian sector in Kenya has managed to deliver many essential services to affected communities. Most actors agree that the response to this crisis is better and more effective than that of 2011. Many of the same challenges for humanitarian response remained – late response, delayed funding from donors, coordination issues, and so on. It is worth noting that many of the improvements in this crisis are thanks to the government’s leadership and to the increased use of crisis modifiers1 in development programmes.