IFRC takes early action to tackle drought in Kenya

Published: 25 March 2011
The Kenya Red Cross distributes children's food in areas that have already been hit by drought. Photo: Kenya Red Cross The Kenya Red Cross distributes children's food in areas that have already been hit by drought. Photo: Kenya Red Cross

The exceptionally poor performance of the short rains between October and December 2010 occurred after similarly poor long rains between March and June 2010 in the northern and north-eastern pastoral areas, and the south-eastern and coastal lowlands of Kenya.

To mitigate the effects, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an international appeal seeking 4.9 million Swiss francs (5.4 million US dollars/3.9 million euros).

According to an assessment conducted by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group, large‐scale emergency assistance is needed to address food insecurity among an estimated 2.4 million people over the next six months.

“Drought in Kenya is a natural hazard but an unnatural disaster. We need to take early action to alleviate the effects by increasing community resilience and by supporting community coping mechanisms,” says Alexander Matheou, the IFRC’s East Africa representative. “The Kenya Red Cross drought initiatives are built on the lessons of the past and show how drought response can become timelier and more effective.”

The IFRC aims to support the Kenya Red Cross in assisting 855,000 people. The funds from this international appeal will assist the Kenya Red Cross’ mid- to long-term projects such as strategic borehole rehabilitation and community-focused livelihoods support. Distribution of high quality seeds, training for farmers on better farming methods, hygiene promotion, health services, and providing supplementary food rations to school children are some of the activities that the Kenya Red Cross plans to carry out.

“Currently we have used the funds raised through our national appeal, launched earlier this year, to carry out emergency response activities, including animal destocking and water trucking,” says Abdishukar Othowai, head of disaster management at the Kenya Red Cross.

“This new approach to drought – from one that is predominantly relief-oriented to early warning, early action – has been informed by our past experiences that relief response was not sustainable, hence the need to adopt risk reduction approaches to this chronic problem,” adds Abdishukar.

In implementing this drought initiative, the Kenya Red Cross has also identified gaps where there is neither government nor NGO support to critical public services that can assist populations in negotiating current conditions which could deteriorate in the future.

Women and children have been identified as the most vulnerable among those affected and interventions have been designed to specifically support their ability to cope.

For further information or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Kenya:

  • Nancy Okwengu, senior regional communications officer, East Africa, IFRC
    Tel.: +254 20 1045 149
    Mobile: +254 733 632 946
    E-mail: nancy.okwengu@ifrc.org

In Johannesburg:

In Geneva:

  • Paul Conneally, manager, media and public communications unit, IFRC
    Mobile: +41 79308 98 09
    E-mail: paul.conneally@ifrc.org