Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- As
Kenyans in arid and semi-arid areas starve due to lack
of food and water, a new form of drought is sweeping
across Kenya’s urban areas as many poor households find
it increasingly difficult to access food because of
About 3 million people are
facing starvation in Kenya, according to the latest
figures from the government with the numbers mainly in
far-flung areas in northern and coastal regions.
However, these numbers do not include those in urban
areas, where high food prices are making many starve,
amid declining incomes.
Prices of most basic foods that include cabbages,
spinach, sukuma wiki, maize flour, wheat flour, rice,
and maize grain have risen due to prevailing drought
conditions, making them inaccessible.
The price of sukuma wiki, a poor man’s vegetable,
went up last month by 0.06 U.S. dollars for a kilo, from
0.44 dollars in December 2016.
During the year, the price has risen by 33 percent
making many families forgo vegetables.
Similarly, the price of spinach and cabbage rose 6.7
and 6.3 percent respectively to stand at 0.49 dollars
and 0.71 dollars in one month.
The cost of maize flour, on the other hand, has risen
by at least 5 percent from 1.18 dollars to 1.24 dollars.
The price increases of various food stuff pushed East
African nation’s inflation to 7 percent in January, from
"I have done away with lunch in my house because I
cannot afford it," Tony Muhati, a stone-mason in
Nairobi, who lives in Kayole told Xinhua recently.
With his job being erratic, amid the rising food
prices, Muhati said he cannot afford to offer his
children three proper meals.
"In the last one week my two children have been
taking porridge for lunch and then they return to
school, if things are better I buy for them a mixture of
beans and maize from a roadside kiosk."
President Uhuru Kenyatta early this month declared
the current drought affecting mainly 23 arid and
semi-arid counties a national disaster in bid to call
international partners to support the government in
mitigating the crisis.
"Support from our partners would complement
government’s efforts in mitigating the effects of
drought," he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Poor rains in the 2016 October to December season led
to the drought conditions affecting the food security of
the country’s most vulnerable people.
The Meteorological Department, on the other hand, has
announced that there would be delayed onset of the
March-May rains, with the erratic nature of the rains
compounding the plight of citizens.
"Most of those at risk are small-scale herders in
arid and semi-arid lands, where livestock rearing can
account for as much as 90 percent of employment and
family income," the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
In urban areas, however, where thousands have flocked
in search of hard-to-come by jobs, the reality of
starving is spreading faster.
Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi,
noted that rising food prices are a big threat to food
security in urban and rural areas, but the issue is
currently not being talked about as mitigation measures
focus in arid areas.
"In urban areas, hunger is ravaging families not
because there is no food to buy, but people cannot
"The case in worse in rural areas where incomes are
"If the situation persists, the number of people in
need of food aid would reach alarming proportions."
To cushion Kenyans from high food prices especially
of cereals, the government announced it would allow
maize importation by licensed millers from as far as
Mexico, but would monitor the process to ensure
In its phase two of drought intervention covering
February to April, the government allocated 110 million
dollars to cater for various sectors.
National Treasury announced last week it had released
the first tranche of 73 million dollars while the county
governments have provided 20 million dollars.
As part of its drought mitigation measures, the
government through the Agriculture, Livestock and
Fisheries announced on Monday that payments to over
12,000 pastoral households under a breakthrough
livestock insurance plan, one that uses satellites to
monitor vegetation available to livestock and triggers
assistance for feed, veterinary medicines and even water
trucks when animal deaths are imminent.
"This is the biggest livestock insurance pay-out ever
made under Kenya’s Agricultural Risk Management
Programme and the most important as well, because
without their livestock, pastoralist communities would
be devastated," said Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary for
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and
"This insurance programme is not just an effective
component of our national drought relief effort. It’s
also a way to ensure that pastoralists can continue to
thrive and contribute to our collective future as a
To avert future losses, nearly 2.1 million dollars in
insurance pay-outs across six counties will be made by
the end of February.
Payments will range from 13.9 dollars per pastoral
household in areas that have suffered modest losses to
282 dollars in areas where drought is particularly
Kenya steps up
relief food distributions in drought-hit areas
by Robert Manyara KAKAMEGA
(Xinhua) -- The Kenyan
government said Sunday that it had doubled up relief
food rations to feed 3 million people, up from an
initial 1.3 million Kenyans under the feeding program.
State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said the
government also enhanced water trucking across the
country, especially in the 23 arid and semi-arid
counties that have adversely been affected by drought.
"We are tackling the drought situation with all
efforts available to us, especially under the authority
of the National Disaster Response that the president has
committed to in terms of how we address the situation,"
Esipisu told journalists in Kakamega town in Western
The government on Feb. 10 declared the current
drought, which affected 23 arid and semi-arid counties
and pockets of other areas, a national disaster.
It called on all stakeholders to support the
government by upscaling drought mitigation programs as
the severe drought that is ravaging the East African
nation has left over 3 million people in urgent need of
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has
warned that Kenya was facing a severe drought and with
it a rise in food insecurity. Current estimates show
over 2 million people are food insecure.
FAO said poor rains in 2016 and drought in 2017 has
threatened the food security of some of the country’s
most vulnerable people.
Esipisu disclosed that the livestock offtake has also
been enhanced in all the 23 counties.
"We are buying the cattle as well as procuring goats
and sheep. Since body conditions of most of them is not
good, the government is slaughtering and giving locals
for consumption, and for them to store in traditional
ways as dried up meat. We are also supplying this meat
to schools in those areas," he said.
Esipisu also assured that development partners such
as the Red Cross and UN agencies have continued to
support the government in targeting specific vulnerable
groups, like the elderly, women and children under five.
"These are being provided with fortified foods.
"Lactating mothers are also getting fortified foods,
including vitamins and energy complements," he said.