The Government is scaling up relief food distribution for vulnerable people in 23 counties, amid the ravaging drought.
Government Spokesperson Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, says the relief food distribution programme is meant to avert an emergency food situation in the worst affected areas of the country as drought deepens.
He said the government is on top of the drought situation and making all arrangements to avert humanitarian disaster.
The Government in September this year declared the ongoing drought affecting 23 counties a National Disaster after a poor rain season.
Oguna said besides declaring the drought a National Disaster, the government has set aside Sh2 billion to combat hunger and forestall a humanitarian disaster from unfolding.
“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 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 thank 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.
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 Sh1.5 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 Government 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 Sh5, 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.
He said the goal is to continue to reduce poverty, hunger, and vulnerability in the focus counties, resulting in better and more sustainable safety nets for poor and vulnerable households.
Oguna also said the government has set aside Sh500 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.
“The supply of hay will have a significant contribution in preventing the deaths of the cattle of the communities who are dependent on them for their survival,” he said.
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 governor 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.
By Hussein Abdullahi