It has been over a year since some areas of Kenya have seen rainfall. As resources grow scarcer, more people go hungry and more animals die. The already severe consequences of the drought have led to an increase in conflict along Kenya’s borders with Uganda and South Sudan. Kenyan citizens fetching water or collecting resources near the borders of these neighbouring countries are facing increasing violence. The World Food Programme has reported that 2.4 million people in Kenya are at risk of going hungry, with over 465,000 children and 93,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women included in these numbers. This is three times the number of people who went hungry in the previous year.
A report by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) has shared that they expect that the next rainy season from March to May 2022 will also be disappointing. If this is the case, FEWS NET expects three to four million people to be going hungry in 2022. The amount of rainfall in Northern and Eastern Kenya was as much as 60% below the 40-year average in October and November 2021. Support has been given to those suffering from the famine in Kenya, including support from the Kenyan government in the form of a National Drought Emergency Fund, and from the United Nations. The Kenyan government is also planning to introduce a Relief Cash Transfer program in the new year and there are additional plans from other organizations for emergency aid. Despite the support and ongoing efforts, the FEWS NET report found that the “needs far outpace ongoing and planned distribution” of food and financial aid.
The amount of support being given by the Kenyan government and external organizations is encouraging, however, as instances of conflict increase in Kenya, it is clear they are not sufficient. In the past three months, the number of raids to steal livestock near the border each month has increased from two to three in September to nine to twelve in December. Expectations point to living conditions continuing to worsen over the coming months, so there is a need for more humanitarian assistance to avoid increased conflict and increased hunger rates.
This is the third consecutive poor rainy season in Kenya, and this drought, which began in December 2020, began only three years after the previous drought. This is much faster than the regular five to seven years between droughts, and this drought is more severe than previous ones. In October 2021, the average distance travelled to access water in Northern Kenya was 14 kilometers. This distance plays a toll both on the individuals needing to travel this distance for water, as well as for herders who need to take their cattle and livestock such a far distance.
As we enter 2022, many families in Kenya are worrying about what the coming year might look like. The plans for increased aid from the Kenyan government and other organizations are promising and might provide some relief for Kenyan citizens. As access to food and water increase, it can be expected that conflict along the borders will decrease. The drought in Kenya and the conflict it is causing is just one of many events of this type currently happening, and that will continue to occur in increasing intensity in the future. As the climate in Africa continues to deteriorate, and severe weather events such as droughts become increasingly common, governments and external aid agencies should be prepared for the impending crises and the need to provide more assistance.
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