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Kenya: Drought - 2014-2019

Disaster types

On 10 February the Government declared a national drought emergency, with 23 of 47 counties affected. The number of food insecure people more than doubled – from 1.3 million to 2.7 million. Some 357,285 children and pregnant and lactating mothers are acutely malnourished. The latest nutrition surveys showed that three sub-counties (Turkana North, North Hor (Marsabit), Mandera) had GAM rates above 30 per cent. Six sub-counties (Turkana Central, Turkana South, Turkana West, Laisamis, East Pokot (Baringo), Isiolo) had GAM rates between 15 and 29 per cent.

Maize production in the coastal areas decreased by 99 per cent compared to the long term average. People have to travel further to access water, for example in Baringo, household walk three times longer than normal. Pastoralist communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties are losing their livestock - with reports of large numbers of animal deaths in Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Mandera counties. Data collected by UNICEF from 10 affected counties indicated that close to 175,000 children were not attending early pre-primary and primary schools, primarily due to the drought’s impact. (OCHA, 17 Feb 2017)

More than 2.6 million Kenyans were severely food insecure as of 26 May 2017 — and this number was rapidly rising. High levels of malnutrition are prevalent across the arid and semi-arid lands. Three sub-counties report Global Acute Malnutrition rates of 30 per cent, double the emergency threshold. Severe drought has dried up water resources in half of Kenya’s 47 counties and an estimated 3 million people lack access to clean water. Recurrent droughts have destroyed livelihoods, triggered local conflicts over scare resources and eroded the ability of communities to cope. Families are on the move, which poses protection risks for women and children. More than 1.2 million children are in need of education assistance. Kenya is experiencing multiple disease outbreaks including cholera/Acute Watery Diarrhea and measles. An estimated 2.9 million people require lifesaving medical interventions and community-based primary health outreach. (OCHA, 26 May 2017)

The National Drought Management Authority’s (NDMA) early warning bulletin for June indicates that while the long rains have ended, many parts of the Arid and Semi-arid Lands (ASALs) are still experiencing long distances between home and water sources, unusually high food prices, and worrying levels of malnutrition. Being the third consecutive below-average rainfall season, the modest recovery conditions in some parts of ASALs are likely to be short-lived. Therefore, the upcoming dry season (June to September) will be a difficult one for the ASALs in terms of malnutrition and access to water and food, particularly for pastoral communities. Insecurity linked to resource-based conflicts has worsened, while Fall Armyworm and African Armyworm infestations continue to threaten crops in marginal agricultural counties, further worsening the prospects for the next harvest. (UNICEF, 19 Jun 2017)

The Horn of Africa is experiencing one of the worst hunger crises in recent times due to a prolonged drought. The current drought is worse in a number of ways than in 2011, with some areas experiencing the failure of three rains in a row. In Kenya, 2.6 million people are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity. The number could increase to 3.5 million in need of targeted assistance by August. In parts of Marsabit and Turkana, where communities are unable to reach sustained humanitarian assistance, they are at risk of sliding in to emergency levels of hunger (IPC Phase 4), one step away from famine, between July and September.

The March–May rains have been below average and it is likely that the July food harvests will also be below average, leading to a corresponding decline in access to and consumption of food. In addition, the African armyworm infestation has already affected around 69,000 hectares of farming land, prices of basic food commodities, such as maize, in Kenya have soared with overall inflation for the month of May 2017 reaching a five-year high of 11.7 per cent, and livestock prices in pastoralist areas are low due to the poor condition of animals. As a result people are reducing what they eat, with many families eating one meal a day. Food shortages are further compounded by anxiety around upcoming general elections which may politicize the crisis, a lack of access to water due to non-operational water points, and high levels of severe acute malnutrition among children below the age of five. (OXFAM, 4 July 2017)

Following at least two consecutive poor rainy seasons, food security needs are expected to peak in October 2017 as food and income sources are below-average across the majority of pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through early December in areas of Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, Tana River, Samburu, and Laikipia, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. However, an improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is expected across all pastoral areas in early 2018; however, some of the most vulnerable households are still likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). (FEWS, 18 Nov 2017)

In Kenya, drought conditions that are expected to persist into 2018 have left 3.4 million people severely food insecure and an estimated 500,000 people without access to water. An estimated 482,882 children require treatment for acute malnutrition, including 104,614 who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Eighty-eight per cent of these children are from 23 arid and semi-arid counties. Drought conditions have led to declines in school attendance and school participation and rising dropout rates. (UNICEF, 4 Jan 2018)

Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through September in Wajir, parts of Marsabit, Isiolo, Turkana, Garissa, Mandera, and Tana River due to various factors, including livelihood recovery from drought and/or flooding, a livestock quarantine from an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), and insecurity. However, with the favorable forecast for the October to December rainy season, further improvements are expected, which will lead to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes across the majority of the country. (FEWSNET, 30 Jun 2018)

Countrywide, the historically above-average 2018 March to May long rains have continued to drive food security improvements. The marginal areas are currently supported by available harvests and are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), and food availability will increase even further, beginning in October, with harvesting from the high and medium-producing areas. Despite significantly improved livestock productivity and above-average terms-of-trade in pastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through January 2019. (FEWSNET, 28 Sep 2018)

In marginal agricultural areas, the October to December short rains season has been significantly below average and short rains crop production is expected to be 70 percent of average. However, surplus long rains production and re-planting of short rains crops by better-off households in some areas have sustained high agricultural labor demand and above-average terms of trade, facilitating food access for the poor. As a result, deterioration in food security is most likely to be gradual, but Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated to be widespread in the February to May 2019 period. (FEWSNET, 14 Jan 2019)

The dry conditions and high temperatures experienced from January to March have pushed more counties into the Alarm drought stage, from one (1) in February to five (5) in March. 20 ASAL counties are reporting a worsening trend and only three (3) indicate a stable trend. Counties in the Alarm drought phase are Wajir, Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit and Turkana. (GOV, 18 Apr 2019)

The Horn of Africa (HoA) (including northeast Uganda) is currently experiencing a prolonged drought, largely as a result of below average precipitation from the seasonal short rains (April-July) and long rains (October-December). Prevailing dry conditions across the region have led to the deterioration of farmland and pastures, loss of livestock, sharply increased food prices, and reduction of the availability of water in large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. At the regional level, the number of severely food insecure people has increased to approximately 12 million, in large part as a result of the drought. Pre-existing protection, health, WASH, and shelter needs have been also been exacerbated. The humanitarian needs of the region’s growing displaced population are of particular concern. (ACAPS, 22 Jul 2019)