The US government yesterday announced a Sh30 billion relief package to Kenya to help the country fight the ongoing drought. The funds, donated through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will go towards the provision of food, clean water, farm input and healthcare services to affected families.
Speaking during a press conference in Nairobi, USAID administrator Samantha Power said the funds will be used to provide relief assistance packages to families in the arid and the semi-arid areas and to cushion farmers from losses. She said USAID has already provided at least $1.3 billion to the horn of Africa region, money it says will be used to fight hunger and drought.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that the United States will provide Kenya with an additional $255 million in humanitarian and development assistance. Of this, around $234 million will be in humanitarian assistance and emergency relief and over $20 million in development assistance, and that is investment in long-term agriculture activities and food security and adaptive programmes to help farmers withstand the very devastating effect of the current crisis,” Ms Power said.
The donations come at a time when the government is fighting a prolonged drought that has hit the arid and semi-arid parts of the country, resulting in hunger and livestock deaths.
At least 4.1 million people are currently facing hunger, according to the government, with an additional 942,000 children facing malnutrition across the country. The figures are an increase from the 3.5 million people who were in March this year said to be facing hunger and another 636,000 children who were suffering from malnutrition.
The government has largely blamed the current hunger crisis on the lack of rainfall, the two-year Covid-19 pandemic that shrunk the economy, the desert locust invasion that destroyed crops last year and the ongoing war in Ukraine. Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia yesterday said a lack of resources to provide relief services to the affected families had also worsen the situation.
“This intervention comes at a time when arid and semi-arid areas are facing droughts as a result of four successive failed rainy seasons. We are also trying to recover from the two years of Covid-19, coupled with the prolonged desert locust invasion and global ramification of the war in Ukraine,” Prof Kobia said.
“Consequently, the government of Kenya has scaled up its drought mitigation efforts and to date, we have spent approximately Sh12.6 billion on interventions. However, the persistent drought has left us with resources gap of more than Sh15 billion for interventions required in critical sectors of food security, health and nutrition, water, agriculture and livestock.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta had in September last year declared drought a national disaster after months of failed rains forced many families to go for days without food. According the United Nations, at least 15 million people are currently facing severe water shortages and acute food insecurity in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, a number it says could reach 20 million if these conditions persist.
Ms Power yesterday said the US had already provided $65 million towards drought response in Kenya, funds she said had reached over one million people in the arid and semi-arid lands.
“This assistance includes food, special nutrition assistance, access to clean water and cash assistance, as well as protection for women and girls who are often the hardest hit during emergencies of this nature,” she said.
Prof Kobia said despite the challenges, Kenya has made significant progress in managing drought and associated risks. “We attribute this progress to the policy shift, which has up-scaled cash transfer programmes from 700,000 to 935,000 beneficiaries, resilience building and enhanced partnership and coordination, and strengthened early warning systems.” By Silas Apollo, NMG