On 8 September 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared drought in parts of Kenya a national disaster. A collective group of national and international NGOs has been following the worsening drought conditions and predicted below average rainfall for the short rains in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) with great concern and is planning to undertake a response to support affected households and prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods.
Crop and livestock production has been undermined by below average rain seasons in affected areas with failures of both the 2020 short rains (Oct-Dec) and the 2021 long rains (March-May) in some counties. For farming households, harvests were largely below average resulting in reduced household income, making it difficult for families to purchase food although they are increasingly relying on market supplies as household food stocks decline. In pastoral areas, below average rain has led to reduced livestock productivity and thus reduced milk availability for sale or consumption for pastoral households. Households across the affected regions are employing reduced to stressed coping strategies. These include reduced frequency of food consumption, reduced portion of size of meals and reliance on less preferred food.
Affected households have experienced a series of shocks in recent years in addition to drought conditions, including a desert locust invasion and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced household income to purchase non-food items and lack of water for handwashing is also undermining efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and crowding near water sources increases risk of COVID19 community transmission.
The East Africa region has a fair prediction skill for the October-November-December (OND) rain season, which is important for food growing and pasture rejuvenation. From the available forecast information, which is more reliable for the short rain season, particularly the Northern and Eastern ASAL regions in Kenya will receive below average rains. Accordingly, it is unlikely that farming communities in these regions will harvest sufficient food, and, although pasture and browse is expected to rejuvenate, the resultant pasture will not last long enough for livestock populations to recover. The forecast thus points to a possible severe drought and rising food insecurity level into 2022 with over 2 million people already at Crisis level (IPC 3 or above).
The most immediate needs are:
• Food assistance/CVA
• Water for household use and livestock, including rehabilitation of strategic water points and provision of water harvesting systems and storage
• Establishing new water points
• Veterinary services for livestock
• Livestock destocking and commercial off-take
• Supplementary livestock feeds
• Farm inputs
• Expansion of irrigation systems
• Support malnutrition screenings and referrals