Kenya need to step up efforts to address persistent drought.
The story of drought and famine is almost becoming a cliché in Kenya.
Recently, the government announced that two and half million people in 12 counties are already experiencing deep food insecurity after two back-to-back rainy seasons failed.
Despite the existing drought early warning systems in the country, drought disaster response mechanisms and coping strategies remain miserably wanting.
More often, drought and famine situations degenerate into dire humanitarian crises before the government takes substantial action.
The drought cycle in Kenya dates back to more than three decades ago. In 1975, widespread drought affected 16 000 people, in 1977, it was 20 000 people affected, in 1980, 40 000 people suffered the effects of drought, and in 1983/84 it hit over 200 000 people.
In 1991/92 in Arid and Semi-Arid Districts of North Eastern Kenya, the Rift Valley, Eastern and Coastal Provinces, 1.5 million people were affected by drought. It was reported that widespread drought affected 1.4 million people in 1995/96 and in 1999/2000, famine affected close to 4.4 million people.
In 2004, 3 million people were in dire need of relief aid for eight months from August2004-March 2005 due to widespread drought. The drought in 2008 affected 1.4 million people. In the late 2009 and early 2010, 10 million people were at risk of hunger after harvests failed due to drought.
From the aforesaid it is evident that Kenya has been hit by repeated droughts and this year will be no different from the previous ones. The drought cycle has become shorter, with droughts becoming more frequent and intense due to global climate change and environmental degradation.
There is need for the Kenyan government to address the root cause of this problem. For example, one reason is that the drought intensity and frequencies have increased and the people’s predicament has been compounded by political marginalization and chronic underdevelopment, including lack of basic education, infrastructure and health, thereby greatly reducing their capacity to adapt. Thus, they are left at the mercy of the government and relief agencies.
Certainly, there are still challenges in the implementation of drought disaster responses that the government need to address.
Even with clearly spelled out roles of the existing institutional structures as it is outlined in the 2009 Draft National Policy for Disaster Management. Most of the response activities are focused on immediate emergency interventions, such as water trucking and destocking.
Because of this, there has been little time for adequate emphasis on long-term measures.
Another challenge is that the budgetary allocation for overall disaster management is far less than the reasonable amount needed. Thus, drought disaster response activities are hampered by inadequate resources allocation.
The national and local governments’ should step up the promotion of the early warning system under the Ending Drought Emergencies (EDE) framework to allow for scalability and mitigates the impact of drought on communities.
Unless action is taken, drought will always be a disaster in waiting year in, year out which will negatively impact on any significant development that the Kenyan government may undertake.