Drought in Kenya: Nearly 3.5 million people are hungry, says UN

Over 90 per cent of the open water sources have dried up

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 25 March 2022

Nearly 3.5 million people in Kenya are faced with hunger due to acute drought, a press release by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. 

Approximately 750,000 people in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) of the country are in the middle of one of the most acute droughts due to three consecutive poor rainy seasons. The country has around 53 million people, according to World Bank. 

The rainfall levels in northern Kenya’s arid- and semi-arid lands region was 26-50 per cent lower than expected during the October to December rainy season

Kenya has suffered a 70 per cent drop in crop production, according to Oxfam

Many areas have seen little or no rainfall since 2020 and 80-90 per cent of reservoirs and dams have dried up in Kenya’s largest county, Turkana, in the northwest.  

In Turkana, one of the hottest and driest regions of the world, lakeside communities can no longer survive on fishing, warned OCHA.

Over 90 per cent of the open water sources have dried up and the remaining sources are expected to last only between one and two months in ASAL region, OCHA stated.

Some people in Turkana are forced to spend their days simply searching for water and the distance to find water keeps increasing, the report mentioned. 

People have to walk more than 15 kilometres every day to take water from an untreated borehole for drinking and cooking.

Many children in Turkana and across Kenya’s drought-affected regions are forced to drop out of school to engage in labour or survival activities to support their families, OCHA observed. Girls walk long distances to help their mothers fetch water or sell firewood and charcoal. Boys migrate to other areas, seeking pasture for livestock. 

Sammy Ekal, programme manager at the Turkana pastoralist Development Organization, a non-governmental organsation said:

In 2019, there were flash floods. After that, there was no rain and the drought is biting even now. A more robust government and humanitarian effort is urgently needed in severely drought-affected areas.

In September 2021, the Government of Kenya declared the drought a national emergency as an estimated 2.8 million people scrambled for assistance

Kenya’s government released two billion Kenyan shillings ($17.7m) in September, 2021 under the National Drought Emergency Fund to respond to the ongoing drought situation in the country. But this has been slow to trickle down to the areas where it is needed most, according to OCHA. 

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