USAID Kenya - Drought Information Bulletin #1 (FY) 2001



In early 1998, as Kenya began to recover from the floods of 1997, the Horn of Africa experienced the first of several seasons of below-normal rainfall. This culminated in a severe drought in March-June 2000. This has been Kenya's worst drought in 60 years, and it has come at a time when long-term economic decline has already left 48% of the rural population in absolute poverty, according to the World Bank.

Kenya has two rain seasons, a Short Season that lasts from October to December and a Long Season that lasts from March to June. The Long Season harvest of June 2000 was far below normal, and threatened pastoral and subsistence agrarian populations throughout the northern, central, and eastern areas of the country with food insecurity. The purchasing power of agrarian populations decreased and they gradually depleted food stores. Increased distances between pasture and water sources weakened pastoralists' stocks and triggered conflict over limited resources. Both populations faced malnutrition and disease. Stress migrations to limited food and water sources exacerbated these health problems. Decreased availability of currency and declining market value for weakened livestock undermined pastoral coping mechanisms.

The Government of Kenya (GOK) responded to the crisis with a consolidated aid appeal in July 2000, issued in cooperation with United Nations (U.N.), bilateral and non-governmental aid organizations. The food aid appeal received good responses from donors, and the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Horn of Africa later credited this assistance with averting serious food insecurity in 2000. By November 2000, 3.2 million Kenyans were receiving food aid. The October-December 2000 rains were sporadic and sparsely distributed, providing little relief to some areas and worsening conditions in others.

Numbers Affected

The 2001 United Nations Consolidated Appeal, issued in February, reports 4.4 million Kenyans affected by the drought, according to World Food Program (WFP) figures. The Kenya Food Security Steering Group and the Arid Lands Resource Management Program supported this figure. This represents an increase of 1.1 million over last year's estimates. This figure does not include those impacted by secondary effects of the drought, such as decreased manufacturing output due to hydropower rationing.

Beneficiary numbers have decreased between February and May 2001 due to some improvements in food security and the nutrition situation. In April, WFP reassessed its figures and reported 3.5 million affected by drought, and phased out its general food distribution in six districts. The sixteen districts where general food distribution continues are located in the Eastern, North Eastern, Rift Valley, and Coast provinces, and represent 87% of Kenya's territory.

Additionally, severe flooding in southwestern districts at the end of January 2001 affected 150,000 people, according to UNICEF estimates. As of March 1, 2001, the displaced families had returned to their homes, but 1,500 were still in need of assistance to supplement food, rebuild agriculture, and replace private goods.

Current Situation

The 2000 Short Rains (October-December 2000) began late, were sporadic, and fell unevenly across the country. The pastoral areas received below-average rainfall. Some agricultural areas received adequate rainfall, including the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province, where the Short Rains produce the majority of annual production. Many areas, however, received rains that were inadequate, excessive, or too late for sufficient harvests. These Short Rains stabilized the food security situation, but recovery requires vegetation regeneration from the Long Rains of March-June 2001 and successive seasons. USAID/OFDA field staff estimate that it will take two to four years of normal rainfall to regenerate pasture, restock herds, and resume normal food marketing. Initial predictions for the impact of the ongoing Long Rains (March-June 2001) season are mixed: western regions received strong rainfall in April, but little rain in May; pastoral regions in the North and East have received only below-average rainfall.

Food security: Both the affected population and the geographic extent of the drought have increased since September 2000 despite some reprieve provided by the 2000 Short Rains. Marginal agricultural areas such as the eastern districts of Tharaka, Mbeere, Kitui, and Mwingi, for whom the Short Rains provide 75% of annual production, received good rains one month later than normal, according to USAID/OFDA field staff. This unusual rainfall allowed good harvests of some crops, such as sorghum and pigeon peas, but it washed out desiccated bean crops.

Pastoral regions received little precipitation during the Short Rains, however, and to date little rainfall has fallen during the Long Rains season. Depleted stocks, the poor health of remaining livestock and high grain prices contribute to poor terms of trade for pastoralists.

These persistent drought effects require continued food aid assistance. WFP supplies general food rations to 2.4 million Kenyans in 16 districts and to 1.1 million schoolchildren in 12 districts. The food aid pipeline has suffered significant breaks since March, although WFP reports that the cereals requirements will be satisfied for the June-July period. WFP is currently preparing an extension to the current EMOP, which expires in June.

Livestock: The drought has severely affected pastoral populations, and they will be the slowest to recover. FAO estimates that the overall cattle herd has decreased by 40% and that the population of other livestock has decreased by 20%. FAO warns that destocking efforts, in which excess livestock are culled to supplement food stores and conserve core herds, may no longer be practical in some districts because current levels are so low. The need to travel an average of 60 kilometers between pasture and water has placed stresses on the livestock and the herders, undermining health and causing family units to separate. Reports from northeastern Kenya in early May 2001 indicated signs of recovery, including improved livestock health and improved browse. Pasture regeneration will require sustained rainfall through the Long Rains season, but reports to date indicate only moderate rainfall.

Water/Sanitation: Rainwater in river, dam, and pan catchment areas has temporarily reduced water stresses. Millions of drought victims rely on permanent water sources at least 20 kilometers away from their homes, according to UNICEF. Poor maintenance of water points has exacerbated water shortages in southern pastoral areas. Concentration of populations and livestock around the remaining water points has resulted in deteriorating sanitary conditions, environmental degradation, and conflict. Over 2.2 million Kenyans receive water aid through repair and construction of water sources and direct water delivery.

Health/Nutrition: Emergency relief activities have stabilized malnutrition levels, but pockets of severe malnutrition remain in Wajir, Marsabit, and Mandera districts. A Medair assessment in the Loyengalani division of Marsabit district in January 2001 showed Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates of 31.5% and severe malnutrition rates of 5.3%. In Mandera, joint assessments by Oxfam/Quebec, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health in March 2001 found GAM rates as high as 26.2% and severe malnutrition as high as 5.2%.

In other areas, however, health and nutrition programs have succeeded in mitigating the health effects of the drought. UNICEF and NGO partners have established mobile health clinics, vaccination programs, surveillance networks, and primary health care facilities to respond to health needs. Therapeutic feeding centers have been established in most districts where security permits. A large-scale supplementary feeding system has been in place, providing 3,500 MT of UNIMIX each month to 339,000 women and children under five. These efforts have successfully lowered malnutrition in many areas, including a reduction of GAM rates in northern Turkana district from 32% in August 2000 to 10% in March 2001.

Security and Logistics: Inter-ethnic and inter-clan conflict continues in Wajir, Mandera, Laikipia, West Pokot, Samburu, Marsabit, Turkana, Garissa and Moyale districts, much of it exacerbated by conflict over scarce grazing areas and water sources. Humanitarian workers have been targeted. Travel throughout the affected area requires escort, and three districts are under U.N. Security Level III, preventing overnight stays by U.N. personnel. Security hazards have restricted or impeded aid supply activities. Certain roads in northern and northeastern districts have fallen to disrepair, further limiting aid activities. In addition to its effects on aid activities, highway violence and road disrepair have increased the costs of transporting food and goods, adding a further hurdle to relief and recovery.

U.S. Government (USG) Assistance in FY2001

Total USG contributions for drought relief efforts in Kenya to date in FY2001 (October 2000 - May 2001) amount to $93,196,703. USAID/OFDA contributed $5,699,217 in FY2000, of which $1,494,616 was granted for programs that are still underway in June 2001. Additional grants to date in FY2001 (October 2000 - May 2001) amount to $2,414,000. USAID Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) has contributed 56,400 MT of food aid to date in FY2001, valued at $27.8 million. The United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA/FAS) has donated 121,700 MT of food aid, valued at $58,500,000. The State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (STATE/PRM) has given $4.5 million to activities in Kenya in FY2001.


USAID/OFDA supports activities throughout the affected area, including support to UNICEF's health and nutrition activities in 15 districts. Particular effort is focused on the northern districts of Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Sumburu, Wajir, and Garissa, where the drought has been most severe. USAID/OFDA's programs aim to provide access to clean water and furnish basic health services, while maintaining basic food security through agriculture, livestock, supplementary feeding, and food security programs.


The following projects are currently operating with USAID/OFDA funds provided in FY2000:

  • Adventist Development and Relief Agency is repairing and constructing earth dams and protecting water springs in Kitui district with $499,848 of USAID/OFDA funds. The program benefits 130,000 residents.
  • One $356,171 component of a grant to World Vision International involves rehabilitation of water sources in Turkana district. The project will rehabilitate boreholes and shallow wells, construct new wells and support water pumps to benefit 120,200 residents in Turkana district..
  • USAID/OFDA provided local NGO Rural Focus with $500,000 to rehabilitate water sources in Garissa district, Northeast Kenya, and to train the local communities in water resources management. The program provides emergency water assistance to 100,000 pastoralists.

USAID/OFDA has funded the following projects to date in FY2001:

  • USAID/OFDA provided an extension to a Lutheran World Relief water and livestock program first funded in FY2000. An additional $177,000 was provided in FY2001 to continue work in the water sector, including further borehole rehabilitation and provision of emergency water source repair equipment.
  • USAID/OFDA provided a $2.1 million extension to the UNICEF grant issued in FY2000, of which $1.1 million will underwrite activities in the water/sanitation sector. Water/sanitation activities funded through this grant include the following: water sector relief coordination, maintenance and repair of existing water points, construction of new water points, water trucking, and development of community water management systems. The water programs will directly benefit approximately 160,000 people.

Health and Nutrition

The following projects are currently operating with USAID/OFDA funds provided in FY2000:

  • USAID/OFDA provided $385,952 to International Medical Corps to provide primary health care and nutrition services to 143,483 residents of Samburu district..
  • One $366,858 grant to World Vision International focused on food security and nutrition monitoring for 331,000 residents of Turkana district. A subsequent extension to the grant added $395,785 to continue the work of the previous grant and to conduct supplementary feeding..

USAID/OFDA has funded the following projects to date in FY2001:

  • USAID/OFDA provided a $2.1 million extension to the UNICEF grant issued in FY2000, of which $1.0 million will support activities in the health and nutrition sectors, including: sector coordination, nutrition monitoring, supplementary and therapeutic feeding, local health and nutrition capacity building, emergency health kit distribution, and accelerated immunization campaigns. The beneficiary population for the project is approximately 520,000.

Food Security/Livelihoods

The following projects are currently operating with USAID/OFDA funds provided in FY2000:

  • USAID/OFDA has provided $539,308 to a Catholic Relief Services program in two central marginal agricultural districts designed to improve food security. The program benefits 24,000 residents in Tharaka and Mbeere districts..
  • USAID/OFDA provided$361,281 to a destocking program in the Northern and Eastern provinces, implemented by the Organization of African Unity Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources and Tufts University. The project encourages the slaughter and sale of surplus cattle to decrease strain on grazing lands, supplement local food supplies, and enable a more rapid recovery when consistent rains recommence.

USAID/OFDA has funded the following projects to date in FY2001:

  • USAID/OFDA provided a cost extension to a Lutheran World Relief water and livestock program first funded in FY2000. An additional $137,000 was provided in FY2001 to continue work in the livestock sector, including training for paravets and provision of veterinary medicines. The program will benefit 42,000 pastroalists in Marsabit district.

US Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided $58.5 million of food aid to Kenya in FY2001, under 416(b) commodity aid authority. This amount includes 94,000 MT of corn, 19,300 MT of corn-soy milk and 8,400 MT of vegetable oil. USDA will make an additional contribution of 90,000 MT of corn to the forthcoming WFP Emergency Operation (EMOP) appeal.

USAID/Food for Peace

USAID/FFP has provided a total emergency response of 56,400 MT of Title II commodities, valued at $27.8 million. The commodities consisted of bagged/bulk corn, corn-soy blend, beans, lentils, and vegetable oil. USAID/FFP provided all the commodities to WFP for direct feeding to approximately 4.4 million beneficiaries in 22 districts. WFP has focused distribution of the USAID/FFP donations on the most affected districts, namely Turkana, Marasabit, and Wajir.

STATE/Population, Refugees, and Migration

  • State/PRM has given $1,696,792 million to CARE for refugee protection and assistance in the three refugee camps in Dadaab..
  • For Kakama refugee camp, State/PRM has donated $1,534,076 to the International Rescue Committee to conduct health activities, education, and micro-enterprise development. State/PRM also provided $1,251,835 to Lutheran World Foundation for general camp administration, logistics, and education programs. .
  • In addition, State/PRM provided $83 million in FY2001 for assistance to refugees and conflict victims in Africa, not earmarked by country. Of this total, $54 million was provided to UNHCR towards its global appeal for Africa, and $29 million was provided to ICRC towards its emergency appeal for Africa.

USG Assistance Summary

USAID/BHR/OFDA (FY2000 ongoing programs)
Total FY2001 USG Assistance:

USAID/OFDA bulletins can be obtained from the USAID web site at