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Kenya | Hunger Crisis 2021-2022 - Appeal No: MDRKE049 - Operational Strategy (18 July 2021 to 31 July 2023)

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Like its neighbours in the horn of Africa, Kenya is experiencing extreme drought conditions and some 3.5 million people are facing severe hunger.

Following the failure of a third consecutive rainfall season in eastern and northern Kenya, most Arid- and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) are experiencing critical drought conditions. According to Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net), 3.5 million people are projected to be food insecure IPC (Integrated food security Phase Classification) and above, including over 360,000 people in IPC 4 (Emergency).

With rains, less than 60% of the 40-year average across most of Kenya, widespread livestock deaths, minimal livestock productivity, very low cropping levels, and sharp declines in purchasing power are creating large food consumption gaps and high levels of acute malnutrition.

The deterioration of food insecurity is attributed to multiple shocks, including dry spells from three consecutive poor seasonal rainfall performances (all below the five-year average), below-average crop and livestock production, localised resource-based conflict, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with this are a fuel crisis linked to the Ukraine war – which has been felt across Africa and the increase in fuel prices raises the price of all foodstuffs. Ukraine has also captured much of the world's attention and resources.

The current drought is already historic in its length and severity. Long-range forecast models are now predicting an elevated likelihood of yet another (the fifth) below average rain season for October – December “short rains”, setting the stage for an unprecedented five-season drought, which will further increase the severity and escalated food needs into 2023.

Severity of humanitarian conditions

1. Impact on accessibility, availability, quality, use, and awareness of goods and services.

Pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of eastern and northern Kenya have received only minimal rainfall during the March to May 2022 long showers of the rain season, marking the fourth consecutive below-average season. Widespread livestock deaths, minimal livestock productivity, very low cropping levels, and sharp declines in purchasing power are creating large food consumption gaps and high levels of acute malnutrition among millions of households in eastern and northern Kenya.

Fifteen out of 23 ASAL counties are experiencing widespread water stress, as the latest rains (October to December) replenished less than 50% of surface water sources. Moreover, many water sources that are usually resilient to climate variability have dried up in Kenya, significantly increasing trekking distances to and from water sources for both livestock and communities. Severe extreme vegetation deficits and water stress in some areas, as well as flooding in others, have led to high livestock mortality through early 2022.

Most areas that have been experiencing food insecurity are in the ASAL areas of Kenya, where communities practice agro-pastoralism and pastoralism and thus depend mainly on meat and milk for nutrition and income. Three consecutive failed rainy seasons resulting in lost crops and an extremely high rate of livestock deaths have had a devastating effect on the livelihoods of communities.

Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) suggests significantly longer trekking distances, and reports suggest up to 1.5 million livestock, particularly cattle and sheep, have died between October 2021 and March 2022. Livestock milk production, a key source of food and cash income for pastoralists, is 10-80 percent below average. The overall decline in household access to food is driving up levels of acute malnutrition.

The lack of rain is also driving a displacement as families are forced to move in search of water and pasture, leading to intercommunal conflicts. The disruption of markets has also been noted further limiting communities’ access to income and food. Poor households are increasingly dependent on non-agricultural waged labour opportunities, firewood, and charcoal sales, and petty trade to bridge income deficits and support market purchases.

As a result of the above Malnutrition rates remain high and could worsen if no immediate humanitarian assistance is provided. About 755,000 children under the age of five in Kenya will likely suffer from acute malnutrition throughout 2022 and need treatment. About 103,000 pregnant or lactating women are likely acutely malnourished and in need of treatment.

2. Impact on physical and mental well being

The drought has exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities and social marginalization of women and has induced displacement, with the majority of those displaced being women and children. Drought also places additional burdens on women in terms of their responsibilities around household food consumption, water collection, and household care responsibilities, which expose them to greater risks. The drought impact is reflected in the extent and nature of vulnerability and poverty and the increased risk of falling into poverty, losing autonomy, and facing increased discrimination and marginalization.

Droughts also negatively affect the traditional roles of older people, and perhaps more specifically their social position, as communities and power and support structures are dismantled, leaving older people with less influence and power. Case of child marriage have been reported in some areas and school droupouts reported, where children are engaging in labour or survival activities to support their families, including producing charcoal to generate income or walking in search of water.

3. Risks & vulnerabilities

Increased natural resource-based conflict: Due to the scarcity of natural resources – pasture and water – there is an increased risk of inter-communal conflict. Conflicts are intensifying during drought, as communities fight over scarce water and pasture resources. Some neighboring communities attack areas that seem less affected by drought for their resources. Resource-based conflicts have resulted in the loss of human lives, the raiding of livestock, and displacements. They have also disrupted livelihoods, access to markets, and education. In some cases, cross-border migration to Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda has resulted in conflicts over resources. To minimize the risk of disruption of activities, KRCS will work with all stakeholders including the communities to ensure ownership of the interventions and safety of the response teams. KRCS will prioritize the dissemination of its mandate and humanitarian principles to increase understanding and acceptance by communities. Security orientation and briefings for all teams before deployment will also be undertaken to help ensure the safety and security of response teams.

Militancy: Counties bordering Somalia (Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu) remain vulnerable to militancy, inter-communal violence, and high levels of societal violence or criminality, including kidnappings. The al-Shabab militant group is known to be active in the area and stages low-level militant attacks – including improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, roadside ambushes, and abductions – on a recurrent basis. More often than not, attacks target the security forces or the local population. The group has on rare occasions attacked industrial and construction sites.

Protection: Due to the disruption of livelihoods, there is a higher incidence of early marriages and child labor as a negative coping strategy. Women and girls face the risk of trafficking, as they walk long distances in search of food and water Increased displacement:

IDPs being left behind: ASAL counties in Kenya host nearly 459,000 refugees, with around 234,000 in Dadaab refugee camp (Garissa County) and 225,000 in Kakuma refugee camp (Turkana County) (UNHCR 28/02/2022). Rising levels of food insecurity in these counties also affect refugees.

Escalating food prices: The Ukraine crisis has implications on food security across the region as both Russia and Ukraine are key in the global food markets (wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil), and Russia has prominence in the global energy trade and exporter of nitrogen fertilizers and the second leading supplier of both potassic and phosphorous fertilizers. Somalia relies on imports from Russia and Ukraine for up to 90% of the country’s wheat supply. The rise in fuel costs has driven up the cost of transport and food items. With escalating food prices households also face declining purchasing power due to rising. Families have been forced to sell their properties and assets in exchange for food and other life-saving items.

COVID19: Across Kenya, the socio-economic and political pressures of COVID-19 remain a risk.

Intense and heavy rainfall during March April May Rainy seasons cause cyclical floods in other areas of the country, the latest being flooding in Kitui County in December of 2021 and flash floods in Marsabit County in January 2022. Increased soil dryness from droughts highly increases the likelihood of flash and river floods Occurring.

Desert Locusts: The 2021-22 season saw the worst desert locust upsurge in 75 years. These climatic shocks are all drivers of food insecurity across the country. Making matters worse, climatic events are occurring alongside the compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.