Aid agencies issue drought warning for Kenya

Aid agencies, together with UNHCR and governments in the Horn of Africa have raised the red flag concerning the drought condition which has been a slow-onset disaster throughout 2016.

Water distribution in Horn of Africa
Oxfam distributing water in the Horn of Africa where in the period 2010-2011, experienced a severe drought. Photo: Oxfam

Over 15 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are facing imminent drought and famine with water scarcity, food shortage and increasing loss of livestock. Displaced people are experiencing severe shocks as a result of the ongoing phenomenon, which is likely to worsen in the new year. In addition, vulnerable local communities living in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are also likely to experience life-threatening conditions in coming weeks and months.

“The drought is now beginning to claim people’s livelihoods. Aid agencies, together with UNHCR and governments in the Horn of Africa have raised the red flag concerning the drought condition which has been a slow-onset disaster throughout 2016. Action must be taken now. Peoples’ lives are at risk,” warned Abdirahman Jama, Acting Regional Director for NRC in the Horn of Africa.

Over a million people in Kenya are affected by drought, with those in the northern Arid and Semi-Arid Lands region, and in coastal areas facing greatest food insecurity. Poor households in parts of Laisamis in Marsabit, Tana North in Tana River, and Fafi, Balambala and Dadaab in Garissa County -where refugees and vulnerable host communities live – are experiencing worrying levels of food insecurity.

The National Drought Management Authority has issued drought Early Warnings covering 6 regions. Classified as ‘Alarming’, the Garissa County early warning report indicates increasing food scarcity in Dadaab and Balambala sub-counties. Pastoral areas have the highest number of households with poor access to food.

In response to the aggravated conditions, NRC and 15 other humanitarian agencies, under the umbrella of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Disaster Preparedness for East and Central Africa (IAWG), have agreed on the following recommendations for urgent action:

Governments and humanitarian actors should:

  • Work with market actors to ensure urgent access to water by providing vouchers or cash to vulnerable people, and as a last resort undertake water trucking.
  • Scale up social protection mechanisms, and work with market actors to implement cash-based interventions in response to urgent food, livestock and livelihoods requirements.
  • Where necessary, provide direct food assistance, emergency support for livestock and agricultural inputs to farmers, so they can take advantage of any rain that falls.

IGAD and the UN should:

  • Urgently lead and coordinate resource mobilisation through the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI) platform and other IGAD mechanisms, to raise the visibility of this crisis and prompt a greater response.
  • Make special efforts to engage new donor countries in the Middle East and Asia in relation to the drought, and ensure they make commitments in response.
  • Undertake mediation with rival parties in areas of conflict to ensure humanitarian actors have access to affected communities, enabling them to deliver lifesaving assistance.

Donors should:

  • Deliver urgent funding to provide lifesaving aid for people in need of food and water, and support the recovery of people who have lost their assets and livelihoods, including through the immediate expansion of social protection mechanisms.

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