Late Rains to Worsen Food Security in Kenya

Posted on 20 March 2009. Filed under: Food Security |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A woman selling bananas in a Nairobi market (file photo): Food insecurity is set to escalate due to late long rains

NAIROBI, (IRIN) – Food insecurity in Kenya, already affecting millions of people, is set to escalate because the long rains are late and unlikely to be sufficient, officials warned.

The forecast has contributed to an upward revision of the cost of humanitarian needs in 2009, from US$390 million to $575 million.

“Predictions are that the long rains [which normally start in the second week of March] could be poor; this would lead to a more serious drought later in the year,” Jeanine Cooper, head of the Kenya division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN on 17 March.

Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), told reporters on 17 March that Kenya’s humanitarian situation was deteriorating with the failure of the rains.

“The situation has not improved; we were expecting rain but it has not started,” he said while collecting donations in Nairobi for distribution in the worst-hit areas.

Gullet said most of northern Kenya, Samburu, Moyale, Tana River, Narok, Muranga, Nyeri and the Ukambani areas of Makueni Kitui and Mwingi were affected.

Combination of factors

Launching their revised Emergency Humanitarian Response Plan (EHRP) on 16 March, UN agencies and NGOs said poor rains, food shortages and high commodity prices had deepened food and livelihood insecurity across many parts of the country.

They said instability and conflict in neighbouring Somalia had prompted a marked increase in refugees entering Kenya, hence the review of programme requirements in line with existing and emerging needs.

The humanitarian community said emergency interventions were now essential to ensure life-saving food aid for an estimated 3.5–4.5 million. Increasing water availability through enhanced harvesting and storage was also vital.

“Long-term non-food interventions to support the livelihoods of vulnerable populations are also required to mitigate the impact of the current crisis and to cushion future shocks,” OCHA Kenya said.

It said thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially those displaced in poll-related violence a year ago, were another target group for the revised EHRP.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
An internally displaced persons, IDP, camp (file photo): An estimated 3.5–4.5 million people including IDPs will require life-saving food aid

The IDPs’ situation stabilised over 2008 due to political progress and joint humanitarian efforts, OCHA Kenya said, and, as a result, an estimated 347,418 IDPs had returned to pre-displacement or transit areas.

Building resilience

“Nevertheless, many of the transit sites have inadequate basic services, including sanitation, hygiene and health facilities and limited access to schools,” OCHA Kenya said.

“Peace-building and reconciliation for displaced people and the communities that host them urgently need more and sustained engagement, while increased investment in livelihoods is essential to ensure that returnees can lead productive lives and meet their basic needs while rebuilding socio-economic security.”

Aeneas Chuma, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Kenya, who presented the humanitarian organisations’ plan to support populations affected by climatic shocks, food insecurity and livelihood deterioration, post-election violence and a growing number of refugees, said: “As development partners in Kenya, we recognise the importance of tackling chronic, recurrent and predictable problems with durable and effective solutions.”

Cooper said the government and aid agencies were capitalising on the spirit of collaboration to strategise, prioritise and plan for 2009, “in order to tackle persisting chronic food insecurity, peace-building initiatives and restoration of livelihood to build the resilience of most vulnerable populations”.


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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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