Millions stare at starvation as acute drought scorches Kenya
At least 3.5 million Kenyans face starvation following severe drought that has persisted for the last four years.
Ten counties have been severely affected with thousands of livestock reported to have died from the acute dry spell reported mostly in the Northern parts of the country.
While flagging off tonnes of relief food for the affected devolved units, President William Ruto yesterday said his administration will make sure no Kenyan dies of hunger.
With under two weeks since taking over power, the President’s new administration has been forced to come up with a quick response to the severe drought that has put millions struggling to feed themselves.
While promising to ensure his administration responds fully and effectively to the challenge, the President said it will be a collective effort between the national, county governments and private stakeholders.
“We want to ensure no Kenyan dies of hunger as we manage the effects of climate change and as we think on the long-term solutions to this challenge,” said the President at State House, Nairobi when he flagged off ten trucks loaded with an assortment of foodstuff including rice, beans, cooking oil and animal feeds.
Counties most affected are Mandera, Isiolo, Garissa, Marsabit, Wajir, Meru, Kajiado, Laikipia, Baringo and Turkana. Their governors were at the State House to witness the distribution of the food.
Ruto said his government would work on developing a long-term solution to drought-related famines saying the country need not rely on relief food for years.
“It is my hope that this will be the last time we are doing this kind of ceremony where Kenyans are facing starvation and hunger and we have to do this.
“It is possible for us, going into the future, to have a much more proactive approach to situations like this so that we manage them ahead of time and avoid a crisis like the one we are in,” said Ruto.
To ensure the donated food gets to the needy, he ordered the National Treasury to allocate funds for the distribution of food which is expected to reach the counties before Friday.
“I have asked the Treasury to work with the counties so that they can favourably consider adjustments of the various interventions required to make it easy for Kenyans to deal with the current situation,” he said. Yesterday’s assortment entailed 20, 000 bags of rice, 24,000 bags of beans and 350 bags of animal feeds.
The President also tasked Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with overseeing the programme and has asked to be briefed daily on the response.
Another tranche of donations is expected to be disbursed this Friday.
Ruto said they were already working on changing the law to enable private investors to supply water to the arid regions.
“We are working to transition our agriculture from rain-fed to irrigation. We will work with the private sector on the delivery of water under our public-private partnership. We will work on the law to create provision on water purchase agreements with the private sector,” he said.
The DP, who chaired a meeting attended by the Council of Governors Chairperson Anne Waiguru and her colleagues, said they had come up with a response road map to be adopted henceforth.
“We have agreed that the food flagged off today will not be distributed by county commissioners alone, it will be a concerted effort between the national government and counties and development partners,” said Gachagua.
Waiguru said the devolved units were struggling to fight the menace because of inadequate funds following the slow disbursement of allocated money.
“It is worth noting that with the drought situation in the country, Counties continue to face challenges in mobilizing local resources to adequately respond to the drought situation. This is occasioned by the delays in release of equitable share of revenue by the National Treasury to counties, which is inconsistent with the dictates of the Constitution and Public Finance Management Law,” she said.
Cabinet Secretary in charge of Arid and Semi-Arid Regions Margaret Kobia said the ministry will coordinate the distribution of the food.
“The government ministries, departments and agencies and development partners and humanitarian organizations have committed to support the efforts,” said Kobia.
The distribution of the food will be facilitated by the Kenya Defence Forces and National Youth Services that have supplied trucks for the exercise.