The United Nations has issued a $139 million flash appeal to provide assistance to 1.3 million people hit by severe drought in Kenya.
Millions of people across Kenya have suffered from two seasons of incessantly bad rain, resulting in severe food shortages.
The latest Integrated Stage Classification, which analyzes the severity of food insecurity, finds that around 370,000 Kenyans are in a state of emergency and another two million are in crisis.
Stephen Jackson, the World Food Program’s resident coordinator in Kenya, speaking via Zoom from the capital, Nairobi, said acute malnutrition rates are rising rapidly. They say that 465,000 children and 96,000 pregnant and lactating women are severely malnourished. He warned that without an immediate nutritional regimen, many people are at imminent risk.
On a visit to a clinic on Thursday in Wazir, northern Kenya, he said people told him it had been more than a year since the last time he felt rain.
“I spoke to a young mother, Zainab, who told me that she couldn’t feed her babies that morning and didn’t know if she would be able to put food on the table that evening. And that many of her animals had been there before. They had died because of the drought and the ones that are left are not in good condition to sell. And you know, of course, in northern Kenya, livestock is the basis of life,” he said.
Jackson said the problems arising from the drought are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, insecurity, recent locust infestations and diseases.
The Kenyan government has so far allocated approximately $1.7 million to aid the most vulnerable drought victims and announced a further $20 million for this effort. However, Jackson said this was not enough and needed the support of international donors.
“Now is the time to take action. As I already emphasized, if the October rains fail, there will be a third consecutive season without rain. And we face an even deeper crisis later this year. Something in the order of what we saw 10 years ago. So, any support we provide now will save lives and livelihoods,” Jackson said.
The East Africa drought of 2011 caused a severe food crisis across the region, threatening the livelihoods of 9.5 million people and resulting in thousands of deaths.
The current appeal will provide food and livelihoods, special nutritional treatment for highly malnourished children and women, access to water, sanitation and hygiene, health care, education and other essential needs.