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East Africa

WFP warns at least 2.4 million Kenyans at risk of going hungry by November

Hunger situation

The World Food Programme (WFP), warned Friday that at least 2.4 million people were at risk of going hungry by November as drought ravages northern and eastern Kenya, which is said to be a nearly threefold increase from last year. Last month the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, declared the drought a natural disaster, with 2.1 million people already grappling with hunger, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).

“This drought comes right on the back of COVID-19 which has had a tremendous economic impact on livelihoods. It comes on the back of locusts and, in some areas, floods…” WFP representative and country director Lauren Landis told an international media outlet.

Kenya has been hit by a buildup of calamities in recent years, including a locust invasion in December 2019 and poor rainfall in 2020 and 2021, which all left the arid northern and eastern regions facing an emergency. The WFP’s says it’s alarming projection of least 2.4 million people being at risk of going hungry, is nearly three times the figure recorded last year between October and December, when over 800,000 people were reported to be facing severe food insecurity.

“We’re desperately worried that the next short (rainy) season coming in October will also fail and that means then we’re going to be in (an) extremely dire situation…” WFP representative and country director Lauren Landis said.

The WFP says the crisis has already left vulnerable populations affected, with over 460,000 children under five and more than 93,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya’s worst-affected counties. 

Drought Situation

The food and water shortages have also severely affected the ability to farm crops and rear livestock, raising the risk of violence as people compete for access to land and essential supplies such as water.

“Drought brings together a conflict for resources. Everyone is searching for water, everyone is searching for feed for livestock, farmers are trying to still grow crops, all doing it with limited resources…” said Landis.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta last month instructed the National Treasury and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, to spearhead government efforts to assist affected households including water and relief food distribution as well as livestock uptake. The decision followed a meeting between the Head of State and 85 leaders from Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), led by the country’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.

The WFP says it has appealed for $139 million in fresh funding to tackle the humanitarian crisis.

“That’s simply for getting us through to the next rainy season. Should that rainy season fail, the needs will be even higher…” Landis warned.

Last month a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also outlined an emergency action plan to mitigate the situation. IFRC said scanty rainfall during October-December 2020 and March-May 2021 led to prevailing drought conditions, adding that in June 2021, most arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) areas received less than 50 per cent of the average rainfall, leading to a decline in the health of vegetation compared to the previous month. IFRC says that rainfall from this month to December this year, will determine whether the condition in the affected counties will improve.

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