By Mwakwaya Raymond
The government is scaling up relief food distribution to people in 23 counties currently afflicted by drought and famine.
Government spokesperson Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna says the relief food distribution programme is meant to avert emergency food situation in worst affected areas of the country that are yet to receive rains.
He said the government is fully aware of the extent of the famine and is mobilizing resources to avert humanitarian disaster.
The government on September this year declared the ongoing drought affecting 23 counties a national disaster to avert looming humanitarian crisis after a poor rainy season.
Oguna said not only had the government declared the drought a national disaster, but also it had set aside Sh.2 billion to combat hunger before it gets out of hand.
“The government is doing its best to mitigate the effects of the drought by mobilizing all the resources at its disposal to help alleviate hunger” he said.
Oguna spoke in Silaloni and Chanzou areas of Kinango sub county of Kwale where he supervised the distribution of 1,200 bags of rice and 2,000 bags of beans to vulnerable households affected by the drought.
He was accompanied by Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya and area County Commissioner Gideon Oyagi.
The affected sub counties of Kinango and Lunga are usually the most food-insecure in Kwale due to high levels of poverty.
“We are determined to ensure that we continue to meet the urgent food and nutrition needs of almost 2.1 million people across 23 counties who depend on food assistance due to drought” said Oguna.
The deteriorating food situation in the region is blamed on prolonged drought that has destroyed crops and affected livestock.
Drying carcasses of cows and goats lying on the parched ground carved up by vultures has become a common sight in the most affected localities.
“Yes we have seen cattle dying and have seen crops withering but thanks God we have not witnessed hunger related deaths” said Oguna.
At least 100,000 people affected by the drought in the coastal county are set to benefit from the enhanced government relief food programme.
The government spokesman said the affected residents will receive assorted food stuff as well as monetary funds from the government as long as the current dry spell persists even as the weatherman forecasts that rains could fall in March next year.
Oguna said the exercise will also include water distribution using water boozers to the affected areas.
He also announced that the government has started buying livestock from the drought stricken areas to cushion pastoralists against the effects of the severe drought.
“We are calling on farmers to embrace the Sh.1.5 billion livestock off take programme and auction their stocks before they die on their own” he said.
He said weak livestock will be bought from farmers for slaughter at the Kenya Meat Commission to boost up the national food reserve.
The spokesman also revealed plans to upscale the hunger safety net programme currently in place in the counties of Mandera, Wajir, Turkana, Marsabit.
“Vulnerable households in the above counties receive a cash transfer payment of Sh 5,400 every two months but we have plans to increase the coverage of the same to some of the counties grappling with severe drought like Kwale,” he said.
Oguna also said the government has set aside Sh.500 million to buy 32,000 bales of hay for distribution to farmers in drought-hit regions to prevent cattle deaths.
He said the bales will help affected farmers sustain their cattle during the difficult dry period.
Governor Mvurya thanked the national government for the timely response and distribution of relief food to avert the risk of starvation because of the severe drought.
The county boss said the interventions in place will restore the livelihoods of the people and prevent them from falling into a downward circle of poverty.
“The collaboration we have with the national government in both drought response and resilience building is good and will ensure droughts do not become disasters,” said Mvurya.
Locals crying out
The residents say the prolonged drought has led to lack of food and water and death of their livestock.
They called upon the government to address the water shortage through building of water pans to harvest and preserve rain water for use during the dry season.