The government says the ongoing drought in parts of Kenya is still a national disaster, as declared by former President Uhuru Kenyatta on September 8, 2021.
East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano said Saturday, February 4 this was necessitated by a steep rise in humanitarian need in the ASALs occasioned by the cumulative impact of two consecutive poor rainfall seasons (October-December 2020 and March-May 2021).
The situation was worsened by the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and the desert locust invasion that took place around the same time.
“Former President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared drought in parts of Kenya a national disaster on September 8, 2012.”
“That declaration is still in force. This means that the government is on high alert on the situation that the ongoing drought has caused and is taking appropriate steps to alleviate the pain that has come about as a result,” a statement from the ministry read.
It was reacting to calls by a section of senators from 14 counties who called for a declaration of the drought a disaster.
Led by Mandera Senator Ali Roba, the senators had urged the government to declare drought as a national disaster to trigger non-state actors and other well-wishers to help the affected population.
“Given the fact that Kenya was declared a middle-income country, donors and other non-state actors are not willing to respond to the drought crisis unless the government declares the drought a national disaster,” the senators said.
Miano said the government is aware that the 23 ASAL counties, 45 wards in 9 additional counties in Mt.Kenya, Rift Valley, and the Lake Victoria regions are affected by drought.
The affected areas have reported the loss of livelihoods due to crop failure and livestock mortalities.
Declining livestock market prices and the steep cost of foodstuffs and other consumer commodities compound the prevailing situation.
Miano said following the declaration of the drought disaster, the government started scaling up drought response interventions as humanitarian agencies launched a Flash Appeal for Kenya covering October 2021 to October 2022.
The appeal was later revised in May 2022.
Another Joint Flash Appeal was launched in November 2022 by the government and United Nations.
“The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) maintains a dashboard for tracking the resources mobilized from the appeals, interventions implemented and populations reached. This initiative has enabled us to identify where to direct our rescue efforts and to make informed decisions in order to save life,” Miano said.
She added that the government, development partners, private sector, and other benefactors have scaled up drought mitigation measures in the 23 ASAL counties and 45 hotspot wards in 9 additional counties.
The CS said the government has spent Sh25 billion to cushion the affected population against starvation and other drought effects since 2021.
“This week, the government allocated an additional Sh2 billion for the purchase and distribution of relief food and to scale up of livestock off-take. The State Department for ASALs is in the process of procuring the food for distribution to citizens affected by the worsening drought situation.”
She further noted that the government has spent Sh1.2 billion on relief food distribution in 206 sub-counties between December 2022 and January 2023.
Other ongoing drought interventions include commercial and onsite slaughter livestock off-take by the Kenya Meat Commission, repair of boreholes and water trucking by NDMA, and wildlife recovery interventions, including de-silting of water parks, by the Kenya Wildlife.
The state also disbursed Sh1.07 billion as regular cash transfers to households in Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, and Wajir, with an additional Sh409 to scale up cash transfers between July and October 2022.
“Currently, more than 89 development partners and non-state actors are involved in drought response in ASAL counties. These include UN agencies, international and national NGOs, as well as Red Cross organizations. As of December 2022, the agencies had mobilized about Sh44.7 billion for drought response, flash appeals included.”