22 July 2011, Geneva — More than 3.2 million Kenyans are now classified as food insecure and in desperate need of assistance as a severe drought continues to ravage many parts of the country.
In light of this alarming statistic, which has risen from 2.4 million since March this year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is today launching an emergency appeal for 14.7m Swiss francs (17.9m US dollars / 12.4m Euros) to raise vital funds and provide assistance to the men, women and children who continue to face unimaginable suffering and hardship as a result of the worst regional drought in 60 years.
“Today we witnessed people simply collapsing from hunger and exhaustion, many having not eaten for several days,” says the IFRC’s Alexander Matheou who is in Turkana, the northwesternmost district in Kenya, one of the worst affected regions where malnutrition rates are double the emergency levels.
2011 has been classified as the driest year on record in the Eastern Horn of Africa, and the health, livelihoods and food security of millions of Kenyans continues to be put at serious risk. According to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), an estimated 700,000 people in the Northern part of the country (Turkana, Pokot, Marsabit, Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, and Garissa Counties) could be classified as highly food insecure.
The Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSG) mid-season assessment, conducted in May 2011, estimated that the number of individuals requiring urgent assistance as a result of the drought is currently 3.2 million, up from 2.4 million in March 2011.
The humanitarian need in the affected areas in Kenya can only be classified as dire at best, as families grapple with the lack of basic needs such as food, water and health services. With water sources dwindling, rural families are increasingly consuming untreated water, collected directly from local sources such streams and rivers, putting them at serious risk from waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
The worsening drought has also led to the drying up of fields used by farmers for grazing livestock and caused many families to uproot and migrate in search of viable food and water sources. The rising cost of fuel has also led to an increase in the price of food, exacerbating the problem of food security in the country.
A resurgence in armed conflict as communities start to compete for fast-dwindling resources such as grazing and pasture lands, is also a worrying development and presents a potential risk for community stability and security. Clashes over resources have already been reported in Turkana, Samburu, Pokot and Isiolo districts resulting in displacements, injuries and loss of life.
In the face of this growing humanitarian tragedy, the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) is helping those affected by the drought through initiatives such as school feeding programmes, borehole rehabilitation, water trucking and general food distribution. The KRCS is also actively supporting sustainable food security projects such as greenhouse farming in communities and schools.
With the Kenya Meteorological Department predicting that the drought could continue in many areas of Kenya into early 2012, the KRCS is also implementing drought risk reduction projects in mainly arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya, including the Tana River, Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale, Samburu, Wajir and Garissa districts. These projects focus on building up the resilience of vulnerable communities to the effects of drought, strengthening early warning systems and increasing knowledge about how to identify and respond to risks.
However, the current and predicted need in affected areas far outweighs the current humanitarian response. With no likelihood of improvement until early 2012, the situation in many parts of Kenya remains dire and requires large scale and sustained humanitarian interventions.
“The tragedy unfolding in many parts of Kenya is chronic and not new,” says Matheou. “What we are witnessing in 2011 is not much worse than 2010 or 2009 before that. Short term interventions are part of the problem. The solution to this crisis is a long-term commitment to building up resilience and capacity within Kenya’s most vulnerable communities.”
For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact:
• Jessica Sallabank, Snr. Media Relations officer, IFRC
Mobile: +41797085139 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Faye Callaghan, Africa Communications Manager, IFRC
Mobile: +27071 895 2774 – Email: email@example.com