Reduced rains to affect food security in Kenya

y Gaudence Were,

October 17th,  2017,

Kenya seems to be on the verge of meeting a food insecurity crisis. The 2017 March to May short rains were of uneven geographical distribution and there has been a prolonged dry spell leading to poor crop performance. The fall of armyworms in about 36 counties affecting farms and produce has also made the food situation worse. This is leading Kenya to a possible drought crisis. According to the Kenya Food Security Steering Group, Kshs.11.1 Billion is needed between the months of July and December 2017 for response measures.

Coastal counties of Kwale, Taita Taveta, Lamu, Kilifi and Tana River have been ravaged with starvation with Kilifi county occasioning the largest vegetation deficit. The counties that have hit the emergency phase of the drought crisis include Garissa, Isiolo, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, West Pokot and Wajir. According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), the starvation crisis is threatening more than 3 million lives in Kenya between August 2017 and February 2018. The heightened political tension has affected food availability in remote rural areas as market operations have slowed down. To make it worse, the government-sponsored maize subsidy program came to an end in September 2017. The harvest following the long rains that is expected to bring more food and hence stability in the national basket is projected to be 20-30% below average.

Food security and nutrition are deteriorating in arid and semi-arid areas. Inhabitants have been forced to develop harmful coping practices, most of which affect the rights and education of the girl child. In Samburu, young girls have been married off to elderly men in exchange for food and livestock in order to save their siblings and other family members from starvation. Additionally, some girls have had to stay out of school as they take care of their siblings at home when their parents walk long distances in search of food and water. Others have been redirected to look after goats as it is believed that goats thrive more when looked after by girls. Generally, children have had to be withdrawn from school either because they need to help to look for food and water or simply have no energy to walk the long distances to school. Residents in the arid and semi-arid regions are also selling money earning assets, common in this case is their livestock. Also affected are inhabitants of urban informal settlements. This population suffers from poverty, structural underdevelopment, sprouts of violence, conflict, disease and poor or lack of basic social services. Majority of the inhabitants of informal settlements live below a dollar a day. They can therefore not afford adequate food and have had to cut down on their water intake and food consumption levels to survive.

The lack of food and water results into inadequate sanitation and hygiene which eventually facilitates the spread of diseases. Unhealthy feeding practices for both children and adults, but mostly affecting children, is bound to cause and escalate cases of malnutrition.

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