MARALAL, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The United Nations has called on the international community to support drought response in Kenya to a tune of $27 million (Sh2.7 billion), as the Kenya Red Cross begin giving emergency feeds to vulnerable livestock animals in the north.
“It has not been business as usual for some residents in the northern part of the country,” said Wilfred Kinyua, the Samburu County Commissioner. “In the past one week, four people have been killed in this county as they tried to search for pastures in the neigbouring communities that have received some rainfall,” he told the PAMACC News in an interview at his Maralal office on September 28.
Though many parts of the country have been enjoying a prolonged short rainy season for the past two months, arid and semi arid counties especially in the northern part of the country are yet to see a single drop for three years in a row, prompting humanitarian organisations to change strategy for drought response.
For the past eight weeks towards the end of September, the Kenya Red Cross in collaboration with UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have been intervening in Samburu, Marsabit, Mandera, Garissa, Tana River and Turkana counties, where they have been buying animals from those who have excess as a way of de-stocking, and using meat from those animals as food aid for the most vulnerable households on weekly basis.
In the same period, the two organisations have been providing routine livestock feed inputs and veterinary drugs to a total of 1,210 very vulnerable households in all the six counties, with a total of 10,800 animals receiving animal health services.
“This is a very new approach, where we decided to include vulnerable livestock animals in our emergency aid programme so that they can continue providing livelihoods to hard hit communities in the entire drought stricken six counties in the north,” said Dr Joseph Mathooko, the Field Coordinator/Technical Officer (livestock) at the UN FAO.
Though the eight week emergency programme has come to an end, the UN insists that there is need for more interventions to save lives and livelihoods for the remaining months in 2017.
“Most urgently, there is need for $12.7 million (Sh1.27billion) for purchase and distribution of hay and concentrates to rescue vulnerable animals owned by the most poor, and also for fodder production,” said Piers Simpkin the Head - Livestock /animal health and production sector at FAO. “There is further need for $7.2 million (Sh720 million) for livestock offtake and distribution of meat as food rations to the vulnerable population,” he said.
According to a statement released early this month by World Vision International, drought in north and eastern Kenya is already affecting 3.4 million people who require food assistance and clean water, with more than 420,000 children requiring urgent treatment to address acute malnutrition, with 83,000 struggling with severe acute malnutrition.
“The climate is truly changing, because since my childhood, it has never come to this level where even animals have to receive aid as well,” said John Longonyek, the Chief – Nagaroni Location in Samburu. “But indeed, this intervention has really helped especially for families with lactating animals because once they are given the hay and the range cubes, it means they will be able to produce milk, and this has a huge nutritional impact especially starving on children,” he added.
According to FAO’s Predictive Livestock Early Warning System outlook, between October 2016 - August 2017, some parts of Northern Kenya have remained with extreme vegetation deficit while others have had severe vegetation deficit – meaning they have not been able to support grazing or even browsing, leading to death of all types of livestock.
Ngopina Lekitei, a mother of five children from Njakuai village in the Eastern part of Samburu is one of the most affected after losing 12 of the 15 goats that were remaining to the drought, and for the past eight weeks, she has been surviving on meat rations distributed by Red Cross.
“We have been receiving at least four kilogrammes of meat every week for the past eight weeks, and each portion could sustain me and my small children for three to four days as we wait for another ration towards the end of the week,” she said.
Different committees at the community level collaborated with local administration to identify the most vulnerable households, especially women-led families, who were then taken in as beneficiaries for both meat distribution and animal feeds.
With 30 bells of hay and seven packets of range cubes per household weekly, the beneficiary families have been able to resuscitate wasted animals due to the scorching drought, and the animals are now strong enough to walk several kilometers to greener grazing fields.