Kenya warns drought may worsen food security

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A prolonged drought in Kenya could worsen food security unless an appropriate action is taken to alleviate the situation, Kenya’s disaster management agency has warned.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said in a report received on Thursday that the food security situation will continue to worsen over the next few months due to failure of the short rains.

“The short rains season was too brief and too weak to have any meaningful impact on recovery. For counties where both the long rains and the short rains were below normal, conditions are already very poor,” the agency said in its early warning bulletin.

“For all other counties, particularly the arid, conditions will deteriorate sharply now that there is no prospect of further rainfall until March or April,” it said.

Failure of rains during the short rains crop season seriously depleted stocks of the main staple maize and other food crops and sent food prices spiralling out of reach of the population’s poorer segments, according to NDMA.

The authority said water stress will increase, distances to water and pasture will lengthen, milk production will fall even lower, and malnutrition will rise.

“Migration patterns will deviate still further from the norm, carrying the risk of conflict and the spread of livestock disease,” it said.

The NDMA said counties and sectors should be ready to deal with major drought conditions and widespread food insecurity during the first half of 2017 and that there is need to urgently scale up relief transfers to those in need of food.

The report says there is need to intensify provision of livestock feed supplements, disease surveillance and vaccination where appropriate.

The agency warned that without urgent and appropriate action, Kenya could see a repeat of the drought situation in 2011 which resulted in famine and loss of lives.

“In order to prevent this, the national and county governments and their partners should significantly scale up both livelihood support and relief activities that reinforce the coping strategies of affected populations,” the bulletin says.

However, Water Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said the government has put in place measures to mitigate the drought witnessed in some parts of the country.

Wamalwa said the government would continue to distribute food to the affected regions in a bid to ensure that no lives were lost as a result of hunger.

“We are continuing with plans to address drought in the country and we are collaborating with other stakeholders,” he said on Wednesday.

The warning comes after the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in December 2016 warned Kenya is highly likely to see another drought in early 2017 and with it a rise in food insecurity. Current estimates show some 1.3 million people are food insecure.

FAO said poor rains in 2016 and drought in 2017 has led to a significant risk of drought conditions in 2017, threatening the food security of some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

“Those most at risk are small-scale herders in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), where livestock rearing can account for as much as 90 percent of employment and family income,” FAO said.

According to the UN agency, the delayed onset and erratic nature of the current rains means critical pasture and water resources are not being replenished following already poor rains during the April to June 2016 rainy season. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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