Drought Puts 2.4 Million at Risk of Famine in Kenya: WFP

Drought has brought 2.4 million people in Kenya to the verge of famine - a number predicted to be reached by November, according to the World Food Program.

  • a malnourished seven-month-old child weighing only 7.5 pound (3.4kg), is held by his mother in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya, on July 26, 2011 | AP
    A malnourished 7-month-old child, weighing only 7.5 pounds (3.4kg), is held by his mother in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya, on July 26, 2011 (AP)

Drought has been ravaging Kenya's north and east, putting 2.4 million people at risk of famine. The risk constitutes nearly a 300% increase from last year, according to the World Food Program on Friday.

Kenya has been hit by several catastrophes over the past, such as the 2019 locust invasion and poor rainfall throughout 2020 and 2021. These factors put the East African country's northern and eastern regions in the face of an emergency.

President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought his country is facing a natural disaster in August, with some 2.1 million people already facing famine, as per the National Drought Management Authority.

The WFP said its projection is nearly three times the figure recorded between October and December of 2020, when the UN agency warned 852,000 people were facing severe food insecurity.

"This drought comes right on the back of COVID-19, which has had a tremendous economic impact on livelihoods. It comes on the back of locusts and, in some areas, floods," said Lauren Landis, WFP Representative and Country Director for Kenya.

"We're desperately worried that the next short (rainy) season coming in October will also fail, and that means then we're going to be in (an) extremely dire situation," she added.

The director expressed her fears regarding Kenya's drought reaching the level of 2017, which triggered a national emergency and put the lives of millions at risk, and brought Somalia to the brink of famine.

Experts blamed climate change for the catastrophe, saying extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency due to it.

Today, over 465,000 children under the age of five and more than 93,300 pregnant and breastfeeding women are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The Kenyan government announced in early September that it had allocated some $18 million to support an emergency response, whose main goal would be providing drinking water to residents of Kenya's worst-hit counties. 

The authorities have also dispatched 14 trucks of food for livestock - the main source of income in the affected regions. 

The UN agency has appealed for some $139 million in fresh funding to tackle the Kenyan crisis. However, the WFP has only managed to raise $28 million thus far. "That's simply for getting us through to the next rainy season. Should that rainy season fail, the needs will be even higher," Landis warned.