UN Inter-Agency Donor Alert for the Drought in Kenya 2001

Over 4 million people are suffering from the effects of the current drought in Kenya, the worst in 60 years. Humanitarian assistance remains a priority in the 22 most-affected districts and the focus may expand to include marginalised areas in a further 25 districts which have been identified by the Government of Kenya (GoK) as being in need of assistance. Among the most vulnerable are small-scale subsistence farmers, dependent on rain for their crops, and pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, dependent on the rains to provide water and pasture for their livestock. In order to achieve its goal, the United Nations in Kenya is appealing for US$ 122,650,146 to implement its 2001 emergency programme.

This is the fourth successive drought over a period of two years, severely affecting much of the country. A majority of the population in pastoral, agro-pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country have been reduced to near destitution and dependency on food aid. This negative trend is likely to continue until reasonable rains and normal harvest come, to enable communities to begin the road to recovery.

However, insecurity, particularly in the north, continues to plague the country and be a considerable constraint to humanitarian action. The drought has caused increasing intra and inter-ethnic clashes in northern districts as pastoral groups compete over scarce water and pasture land. There has been an escalation of highway robbery, cattle raiding and car-jackings. Insecurity has increased due to pressure and cattle-raiding by pastoral groups from neighbouring countries, including Uganda, southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

The drought in Kenya has unfolded against a backdrop of long-term economic decline, which has affected every sector, especially food security and then health, water, education, roads and power utilities. In 1999, Kenya ranked as low as 136th, out of 174 countries according to UNDP’s Human Development Index. Poverty levels indicate that 48% of the rural population is living in absolute poverty, and 29% of the urban population. Kenya is also prone to natural disaster: a series of droughts in 1991/92, 1996/97, and a devastating flood in 1997/98. It is essential, therefore, to implement preventive measures, disaster preparedness, and early warning for natural disasters to mitigate their effects.

In response to the complexities of the problem, a multi-sectoral, multi-agency approach has been adopted to provide a comprehensive response. It follows the WFP Emergency Operation started in Kenya in February 2000 (EMOP 6203), which was further elaborated in the Regional Appeal for the Drought in the Horn of Africa in June.

The key objectives and actions of the 2001 emergency programme are:

To save the lives of the most vulnerable population and to reduce malnutrition rates to an acceptable level, particularly amongst children. Key interventions are in the sectors of food security, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation.

To ensure the sustainable recovery of livelihoods and to restore local coping mechanisms to enable populations to deal with the recurring problem of drought and other natural disasters. Key interventions include livestock projects and seed distribution, as well as education and health surveillance.

To strengthen and support mechanisms for preparedness against natural disasters and recurring drought. Key interventions include support to early warning mechanisms, coordination, education, and the development of local contingency plans in every sector.

Factored into programming is the need for flexibility in order to respond to environmental degradation and natural disasters. The most obvious factor in the next six months will be the rains - both the outcome of the short rains on crop production and livestock, and the coming of the long rains in June/July. A flexible response will be based upon assessments following the short rains to analyse their success or failure. This will be crucial for planning, particularly of the agricultural and livestock sector, in preparation for the long rains. It will inform agencies of food aid needs, in order to support the re-emergence of local markets. Subsequently, further assessments will take place in July to review the impact of the long rains. Through the establishment of regular reviews, the Appeal document itself will be updated as appropriate and will be available on ReliefWeb.

Humanitarian requirements under the present Appeal amount to US$ 122,650,146. This Appeal is complementary to the Government of Kenya’s (GoK) own efforts to support drought-affected populations and reflects the same concerns, having been designed in close collaboration. Similarly, the program is closely integrated with regular development activities in Kenya.

The success of this Appeal will be contingent on the continued support to UN agencies of all its partners, including the donor community, GoK, the Red Cross movement, local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Their continued commitment and collaboration will be essential to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the severe drought in Kenya.

Table I: Total Funding Requirements for the
2001 UN Inter-Agency Donor Alert for the Drought in Kenya
By Sector and Appealing Agency
January - December 2001
Requirements (US$)
Food security
Health and nutrition
Water and sanitation
Agriculture and seeds
Support services
Appealing Agency
Requirements (US$)
World Food Programme
World Health Organization
United Nations Children's Fund
United Nations Population Fund
Food and Agriculture Organization
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
United Nations Development Programme/ United Nations Security Coordination
United Nations Development Fund for Women
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


1.1 Changes in the Humanitarian Situation

The millennium saw Kenya gripped by one of the severest droughts in its history, the worst for over 60 years. The failure of the long in rains in March was the culmination of four successive poor harvests, leaving a significant proportion of the population food insecure.

The most affected were populations in pastoral and agro-pastoral districts, where for example the nutritional status of children under five deteriorated significantly. As water sources dried up, animals died in large numbers or migrated, leaving women, children and other vulnerable groups behind with severely limited access to food or alternative income. The failure of the harvest also affected populations in the marginal agricultural districts. Households, with already depleted household food stocks, lacked the power to buy adequate food on the market and lacked access to health and educational facilities.

As the situation deteriorated the international community, in partnership with the Government of Kenya (GoK), launched a major emergency response - EMOP - at the beginning of the year. This was supported in June by a Regional Drought Appeal, which further highlighted the unfolding natural disaster in Kenya and neighboring countries of the Horn of Africa.

By November over 3.2 million people in 22 districts of Kenya were receiving food assistance. Over 40% of these beneficiaries - both adults and children - were in the arid, pastoral districts. Other priority interventions included expanded school feeding and supplementary feeding programmes, health and nutrition projects, water and sanitation interventions, and livestock support and seed distributions.

The severity of the drought, not only in Kenya but also the Horn, has forced a major emergency response, which has been both flexible and broad in dealing with the number of concerns that have arisen. A coordinated, dedicated response to sustain these destitute populations has been essential.

1.2 Financial Overview

In June 2000, UN agencies launched an emergency appeal for US$ 146 million to help alleviate the drought situation in Kenya. It was issued as part of an emergency appeal for the drought in the Horn of Africa, launched by the Office of the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator (ORHC).

The donor response was positive, with more than 82% of the total requirements met. Particular achievements included the Health and Nutrition sector and Food Aid sector.

There were, however, some serious shortfalls, namely for logistics and livestock (0% received) and common services (12% received). The first seriously hampered both food and non-food sector operations as the poor state of roads prevented access to some of the marginal areas.

The challenge of the 2001 appeal will be to secure fresh funding not only for direct emergency operations, but also to build a foundation for a recovery programme.

Funds Requested
Funds Received
Needs Covered
Food Aid
Water and Sanitation
Health and Nutrition
Agriculture and Seeds *
Livestock **
Coordination and Common Services
Funds Requested
Funds Received
Needs Covered
World Food Programme
United Nations Children’s Fund
Food and Agriculture Organization
Resident Coordinator System***

* A further appeal was made jointly by FAO and the GoK, requesting both appeals together US$ 1,105,000.

** A further appeal was made jointly by FAO and the GoK, requesting both appeals together US$ 10,570,000.

*** Representing requirements of US$ 2,000,000 for security purposes (totally un-funded) and US$ 500,000 for coordination purposes, 250,000 UNDP (90,000 received) and 250,000 UNOCHA (210,000 received).

1.3 Progress Made

The emergency programmes in response to the drought emergency provided life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable. The highlights below outline the main achievements of the humanitarian community by December 2000.

  • Number of beneficiaries receiving general food relief rose from 2.2 million in August to 3.2 million;
  • 1.1 million children received food in school;
  • 339,000 children and women benefited from supplementary food;
  • 306,805 beneficiaries were provided access to potable water;
  • Over 1.1 million children under five were immunised against polio across the country (not drought-specific);
  • Ebola, Kalazhar and cholera task forces were set-up and a surveillance system was in place;
  • 150 supplementary emergency health kits and 19 basic kits were distributed.

Considerable progress was also made in strengthening the coordination mechanisms among all stakeholders, for both the food and non-food sector, enabling a more coherent response to the drought.

1.4 Lessons Learned

As the drought is still ongoing, a full appraisal of the emergency response has not been undertaken. Agencies will begin to make fuller assessments in 2001, as they prepare for the next long rains and attempt to move towards recovery programming. However, a few clear issues have become apparent:

  • The response to the early warning signals was very poor. While the alarm rang as early as October 1999, neither donors nor implementing agencies were ready to react to prevent the disaster. Livestock in particular was affected, and no emergency measures were taken to prevent animals from dying or deteriorating into such poor condition. The recovery process will therefore be substantially difficult.

  • Time lags in the shipment of food aid donations resulted in insufficient food stocks in the pipelines. While pledges were forthcoming, there was a three to four month gap before the recommended food aid rations physically arrived to the targeted beneficiaries. If the trend continues, it will result in the hindrance of the acutely vulnerable population’s rate of recovery even if rains are good.

  • The implementation of non-food sector projects did not occur simultaneously with the food aid sector, partly as a result of lack of funding and poor coordination. The impact of both was therefore reduced. For example precautions were not taken in time to slaughter healthy animals to supplement food rations, and the animals perished.

  • Following assessment missions carried out in September, it was identified that the local committees charged with distributing the general food rations were having some difficulties in targetting beneficiaries.

  • The process needed to purchase ‘certified seeds’ has proven to be a long and laborious one, which has prevented timely distribution. A number of pilot trials, however, have shown that local seed sources are often of equally high quality and can be distributed more easily and economically. They should therefore be considered for future distribution.

A more general conclusion to be drawn about the emergency response is that greater attention needs to be paid to the long-term structural problems associated to natural disasters in Kenya, such as drought and flooding. After all, the year 2000 was exceptional for the severity of the drought, but the region has always been prone to it. Emergency interventions therefore need to pay greater attention to sustainable recovery programmes, which strengthen early warning systems, preparedness and mitigation.

A more positive achievement has been the strengthening of coordination mechanisms in response to the drought. These structures, comprising GoK, donors, UN agencies, ICRC, IFRC, local and international NGOs, have laid the important foundations for the strengthening and institutionalisation of disaster management, including the development of early warning systems. As part of this process, an urgent objective evaluation of the current emergency response is needed in order to analyse the lessons learned.

The regional approach taken to highlight the problems of drought in the international agenda such as the appointment by the Secretary-General of Ms. Catherine Bertini as the Special Envoy for the Drought in the Horn of Africa and the setting up of an Office of the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator (ORHC), were important additions. It gave a clear unified message to the donor community and emphasised the regional dimension to many of the problems.


2.1 Political, Economic, Security and Constraints Analysis

The drought in Kenya has unfolded against a backdrop of long-term economic decline, which has affected every sector, especially health, education, infrastructure and water and power utilities. In 1999, Kenya ranked as low as 136th, out of 174 countries according to UNDP’s Human Development Index. Poverty levels indicate that 48% of the rural, population and 29% of the urban population is living in absolute poverty. Kenya is also prone to natural disaster, as illustrated by the series of droughts in 1991/92, 1993/94, 1996/97, a devastating flood in 1997/98 and the current 1999/2001 drought.

The worst affected have been the populations in the arid and semi-arid areas, who have experienced a dramatic depletion of their asset base and increased vulnerability to food insecurity over the last decade. Subsistence farmers in the marginalised agricultural areas have also suffered from the high food costs, the poor state of major inter-urban roads and of the rural road network and escalating local conflict.

The efforts of the humanitarian community in responding to the drought cannot be isolated from these major long-term problems. It will be particularly important that progress is made on the macroeconomic level if recovery programmes are to take hold. Similarly, humanitarian operations will need to be closely integrated with the government’s development initiatives, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank supported Poverty Reduction Plan, to enable a smooth transition towards sustainable recovery.

Improvements in the overall economic situation will be crucial to the political environment. Economic reform continues to dominate President Daniel Arap Moi’s current government. Two potential concerns for the year ahead include rumors that he will call for an early election before the January 2003 deadline. Also opposition politicians are expressing their frustration, in particular over the slowness of the constitutional review process, by creating a new Movement for Democratic Change. Both trends are expected to heat up the political environment next year, and already several rallies have been held in main towns, ending in unrest or rioting.

Other forms of insecurity, particularly in the north, continue to plague the country and be a considerable constraint to humanitarian operations. In brief, the drought has caused increasing intra and inter-ethnic clashes in northern districts as pastoral groups compete over scarce water and pasture resources. There has also been an escalation of highway robbery, cattle raiding and car-jackings. The insecurity has been worsened by pressure by pastoral groups from neighbouring countries, including Uganda, southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Currently, the United Nations has placed Ijara, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera and Moyale, northern parts of Marsabit and Turkana Districts in security (Phase 3), while the whole northern part of Wajir district and northwestern Mandera District are official ‘no-go’ zones for UN personnel. (see Security Sectoral analysis)

In conclusion, the outlook for 2001 is uncertain, but with the return of normal rainfall and if the momentum of economic reform is sustained, there is room for cautious optimism. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that real GDP will recover in 2001, with a steady growth in earning from exports and tourism. However, security remains a serious concern.

2.2 Problem Analysis

Kenya has suffered under a two-year, four-season successive drought that has severely affected much of the country. It has reduced a majority of the population in pastoral, agro-pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the country to states of near destitution and dependency on food aid. Until reasonable rains and normal harvest come that would enable communities to begin the road to recovery, this negative trend will continue.

The most vulnerable population include small-scale subsistence farmers, who are dependent on rain-fed crop production, as well as pastoralists and agro-pastoralists, who are dependent on the rains to provide water and pasture/browse for their livestock.

Under the current emergency programme, 22 districts are identified as the worst affected, and where the humanitarian efforts are now concentrated. The focus may expand to include vulnerable pocket areas of a further 25 districts identified by the GoK as being in need of assistance.

2.3 Prospects for Recovery

A large-scale emergency response - EMOP 6203 - has been operating since February 2000, and its success combined with the on-set of the short rains in November has brought considerable relief. However, as Catherine Bertini stated recently: "A crisis has been averted, but we are not yet out of the woods." The approach of the humanitarian community is cautious, for three principal reasons:

- The impact of the short rains on both the pastoral and agricultural areas remains uncertain, but it is unlikely that they will be sufficient to restore the depleted assets of livestock, seeds and food. For the worst affected populations, it is expected that food assistance will be required until at least the harvest from the long rains in June/July 2001, and recovery programmes will be essential in all districts.

- The 2001 March-June long rains remain critical to the recovery process for both subsistence farmers and pastoralists. Contingency planning is required in the event that these rains fail again. Equally urgent is the need for interventions to prepare communities for this next main harvest, hence for example the urgency of seed distribution and to have disease surveillance strategies in place.

- Much of Kenya is drought-prone and unless emergency interventions look into solving the longer-term structural problem, their efforts will be unsustainable. In particular, attention needs to be paid to building up local capacities and coping mechanisms to deal with the problems of recurrent drought.

In order to define the UN response to long-term Food Security, the UN Secretary-General, established in April 2000 an Inter-Agency Task Force comprising 10 UN agencies.

The Task Force, chaired by the Director-General of FAO defined a Strategy and Framework for action comprising of three main pillars: (a) broadening opportunities for sustainable livelihoods; (b) protecting the most needy; and, (c) creating an enabling environment. In their preliminary report, the Task Force highlighted many key areas of action needed if the cycle of drought is to be broken and if crisis of the scale witnessed in 2000 is to be avoided in the future. The report underlined the need for the multi-year programming of food assistance, the development of a regional food security strategy based on sound national policies and the importance of fostering regional peace and security.

In 2001, the Task Force on UN Response to Long-term Food Security will prepare a Country Food Security Programme that would contribute to address both the elimination of famine, as well as the more difficult problem of long-term chronic food insecurity.


3.1 Possible Scenarios

The following scenarios were developed in December by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group in close collaboration with the Drought Monitoring Center (DMC) to assist with programming for 2001:

A. Most Probable Scenario: Short rains continue at ‘near normal’ to ‘above normal’ intensity, but end as they usually do in mid-December and 2001 long rains are average.

B. Best-Case Scenario: Short rains continue through the first week of January and are well-distributed and sufficient in quantity to ensure proper plant development and 2001 long rains are average to above average.

C. Worst-Case Scenario: October-December 2000 short rains continue to be poor and end prematurely, and March-June 2001 long rains are poor or fail.

Taking the most probable scenario, the following assumptions have been made:

  • As a result of the short rains, there is only partial regeneration of pasture, browse and water sources in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas resulting in a return to severe drought conditions in these areas before the advent of the long rains in March 2001.

  • Potential for conflict may increase in some districts as uneven distribution of rainfall leads to temporary water and pasture regeneration in some areas, and competition for these resources.

  • Livestock condition improves temporarily, but deteriorates progressively during the dry season, as pasture and water sources dry up prematurely.

  • If food aid is not forthcoming, malnutrition increases as livestock are moved prematurely to dry season grazing areas far from the household.

  • Marginal agriculture districts obtain poor short rains’ harvest (less than 50% of average).

  • The 2001 long rains (March-June) will begin on time in March/April. These rains will be normal in most parts of Kenya, including the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of the country, enabling pastoralists and agro-pastoralists to move towards recovery during the second half of 2001.

  • In pastoral and most agro-pastoral districts, large populations will require food aid until at least June 2001.

  • Many marginal agricultural populations will not harvest sufficient crops or derive enough casual labour or other income from the 2001 short rains’ season and will require general distributions of food aid until at least June 2001.

While programming will be based largely on the above scenario, it will be essential to constantly review the situation and remain flexible to change. In particular, a number of assessments will take place in January to analyse the success or failure of the short rains. This will be crucial for planning, particularly of the agricultural and livestock sector, in preparation for the long rains. It will also inform agencies of the food aid needs, as it will be crucial to support, not to undermine, the re-emergence of local markets.

3.2 Competencies and Capacity Analysis

There is a considerable degree of collaboration and coordination among the major stakeholders responding to the emergency, including the GoK, donors, UN agencies, ICRC, IFRC, religious movements, and international and local NGOs. These efforts of information sharing and coordinated action planning underpin the multi-agency approach in all areas.

The internal coordination framework of the GoK consists of The National Food Security Executive Committee (Ministers concerned with food security chaired by the President), The National Food Security Coordinating Committee (Permanent Secretaries of key Ministries chaired by the Head of Public Service), The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Drought and Food Security (Chaired by the Office of the President including the relevant Ministries with regard to food security and drought management), The National Food Security and Drought Management Secretariat (Arid Lands Resource Management Project). This last body is responsible for the strategic planning and management policy of drought and manages the Early Warning System.

Other structures involving all the major stakeholders include the Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM) comprising ministries, donors, UN agencies and NGOs involved in drought management and food security. It is responsible for the overall monitoring of the drought situation and ensuring a coordinated response to food distribution and other interventions. It is informed by key sectoral working groups in food security, health, water, agriculture, livestock and education. It also receives regular reports from the field through the Geographical Review Teams, which are small technical groups collecting, analysing and providing consensus reporting on the food security situation from different geo-livelihood areas (see annexes).

As well as being active members of many of these committee groups, the UN has its own internal coordination mechanisms to monitor its efforts and strengthen its support to other bodies. These include the UN Disaster Management Team, and the recently established the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Kenya Office, which is specifically designed to enhance the sharing of information, and regular reporting, as well as contributing to monitoring and evaluation tasks.

Finally, it is important to note that efforts to coordinate the drought response are also operating at the regional level, under OCHA’s Office of the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator (ORHC), established in Addis Ababa in May 2000. It will launch a few critical regional projects, such as cross-border health surveillance, information management and support to pastoralists.



  • Table I: Total Funding Requirements for the


  • 1. Food Security
  • 2. Health and Nutrition
  • 3. Water and Sanitation
  • 4. Livestock Sector
  • 5. Seeds and Agriculture
  • 6. Education
  • 7. Logistics
  • 8. Support Services

    A. Coordination
    B. Security



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