Millions of Kenyans are likely to face hunger due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drought currently being experienced in parts of the country, the government has warned.
Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna on Thursday said that an estimated 1.4 million Kenyans are currently facing hunger, a figure that is likely to rise in the coming days if a solution is not found.
The situation, Mr Oguna said, is worse in parts of the arid and semi-arid counties of northern Kenya where he said drought and lack of food subsidies has put a number of families at risk.
“The figures are that at least 1.4 million Kenyans are threatened by the drought and the situation may worsen and the numbers grow if it does not rain or an intervention is not found,” said Rtd Col Oguna.
He added that the situation has mostly affected the counties of Turkana, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir and Isiolo and that the government has begun initiating intervention measures like cash transfer programmes, distribution of food as well as drought resistant crops and fertilisers to farmers.
“We are also appealing to our development partners like Unicef, World Bank and many others that this is the time to step in and provide aid. We are also in partnership with county governments of the affected areas to offer solutions to families,” he said.
The government, Col Oguna said, has so far distributed close to Ksh2 billion (about $20 million) to the affected families, with each of the 101,000 beneficiary households receiving Ksh2,700 ($27) monthly for food and upkeep.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been blamed for the poor performance of the economy that has seen families lose income and livelihoods due to the restrictions imposed by the government to contain the virus.
Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that data from the government, indicated that the country’s economy, which had been projected to grow by 6.2 per cent had only risen by 0.6 per cent and lost Ksh560 billion ($5.6 billion) of GDP, a decline he said was part of the sacrifices the country made to prevent the spread of the virus.
Droughts, on the other hand, have been a persistent problem in the country, especially due to the ever increasing erratic weather parterns, mostly in the arid and semi-arid areas as well as the country’s food basket areas in parts of the Rift Valley.
Rtd Col Oguna said farmers had been advised to take advantage of the government subsidy programme on fertilisers and drought resistant crops to beat the drought, adding that the national government has roped in counties to identify legitimate dealers across the country who will sell the inputs to farmers.
The government spokesman also warned families and those living in flood-prone areas like Nyando in Kisumu County and Tana River County to be on the lookout for floods, ahead of the anticipated long rains which normally fall around this time.
He said the advisory has also been issued to areas in the Rift Valley prone to flooding due to the rising water levels in lakes.