Kenyan experts are suggesting for possible resilient ways households can absorb effects of famine after the government declared ravaging drought a national disaster.

More than 2 million Kenyans in 23 counties including farmers and pastoralists are wallowing in difficulty times due to extreme hunger which has now extended into non-arid and semi-arid areas (ASALs).

And early childhood development officials in the Ministry of Health have warned of a worsened scenario of malnutrition among the below five years children.

There are no official data on people who have died due to the starvation but local leaders in the affected counties have claimed some famine mortalities.

While in northern Kenya, pastoralists have lost more than half of their livestock according to the elected leaders.

Tom Nyamache, an economics lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, said on Sunday the drought phenomenon has a broad impact on the economy.

He said the scarcity in food and pasture translates to a rise in the prices of basic commodities forcing an upward push on inflation.

“This means people have to spend a lot of money to buy the most basic needs. Nothing is left to save or invest as the economy shrinks. There is no expected productivity from people who have absolutely nothing to eat,” Nyamache said.

However, households would manage to pass the scarcity period if they set aside finances for emergencies such as prolonged drought, he said.

“It is important to encourage people to save for the tough times. They can use that money during drought to buy food. It is about encouraging people to practice proper financial systems so that what they make does not all go into expenditures,” added Nyamache.

He said it is the duty of the government to create an enabling climate for elimination of poverty from the households so that they are able to generate enough income for daily use and saving.

“There must be a proactive mechanism in which people are continuously stimulated to be productive such that they are generating a surplus which can be in the form of food or money. The surplus becomes the stock to survive on in the future,” he said.

“But when people rotate around the same problems, the same challenges all the years, life never changes and poverty becomes stagnant in homes,” he added.

Lack of water is one of the problems which have been hampering any meaningful economic activities in the areas currently affected by drought.

It is a waiting time for communities to access water as the Ministry of Water and Irrigation rolls out its plan of constructing dams to benefit both farmers and livestock.

President Uhuru Kenyatta in his statement declaring the current drought a national disaster on February 10, asked for international support to provide relief food to affected households.

He said the government had set aside 110 million U.S. dollars for three-month drought intervention programs starting from February to April.

The head of state had earlier said the government would supply schools in the affected areas with food to feed pupils and students whose parents have nothing to offer as food or fees.

UN’s food distribution agency, World Food Program (WFP) which runs feeding programs in some arid and semi-arid schools in Kenya is currently grappling with a financial shortfall. Early this year, it suspended some of its programs in northern Kenya.

Eunice Chepkemoi, a gender officer at Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program said since women are mostly affected during drought, they can be empowered to be resilient to drought.

“Women can obtain loans from women groups to invest in food. This can help them overcome hunger during drought. The investments they make would benefit the whole family,” she said.

Already UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through the newly established Early Warning Early Action Fund (EWEA) is supporting county governments in the ASALs to promote resilience among the people.

Under the fund’s support are activities including facilitating pastoralists to sell excess livestock, providing animal feeds for selected breeding animals for individual families and supporting selected households to access animal health services.

Also, the agency is collaborating with the National Drought Management Authority in evaluating the country’s drought status and disseminating the information effectively to assist communities in making appropriate decisions in preparation for the shortage of rain. Enditem

Source: Robert Manyara, Xinhua/

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