Drought stricken residents of Magarini constituency in Kilifi County have appealed to the government to step up relief operations in the area to avert a looming humanitarian crisis due to famine.
The residents told Government Spokesman Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna who presided over a relief food distribution exercise at Tulu area in Marereni location of Magarini division that more supplies were needed to cover all the affected families.
They claimed that the situation was so dire because the area had not had rains for the last three years, resulting in total crop failure and an acute shortage of water in most areas and urged both the national and county governments to move in swiftly to avert a crisis.
However, Magarini Member of Parliament Michael Thoya Kingi and Kilifi County Assembly Deputy Speaker Stanley Karisa Kenga who graced the occasion commended the government for commencing the relief food distribution exercise in Kilifi County, which is among the 23 counties identified as hardest hit by the current drought situation.
Kingi urged the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, to distribute maize produced at the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project to famine-stricken locals.
He said he had already asked the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Agriculture to ensure that food produced at the mega project benefits residents in surrounding villages as part of the project’s social corporate responsibility.
Kenga called for the scaling up of relief food distribution in Magarini and other parts of Kilifi County affected by a biting drought that has persisted for at least two years.
He also urged the national and county governments to supply water to the residents as many have to trek for long distances in search of the commodity, noting that even where the water was available, most residents were unable to afford it.
He said a 20-litre jerrycan of water goes at between Sh70 and Sh150, making it impossible for even the averagely well to do families to afford it.
He called on the national and county governments to start a water trucking programme to address the shortage.
The leaders’ concerns were echoed by residents Sauda Rajab, Emmanuel Kazungu Masha and Fatuma Mwagona who said apart from distributing food, the government should also address the water shortage in the area.
Responding to the concerns, Oguna assured Magarini residents and Kenyans in general that the government would not allow anybody to die of hunger.
He said the government would continue with its cash transfer programme in which vulnerable families were getting Sh3, 000 monthly to buy food and other items, as well as scale up relief food distribution in the most affected counties.
He said since the cash transfer programme started, a total of Sh680 million had been sent to vulnerable families, out of which Kilifi County had received Sh30 million.
He however said the cash transfer programme had faced some problems, and that was why the government had started relief food distribution as it sorts out the issues affecting the cash programme.
The government Spokesperson said, water shortage would be effectively addressed when the giant Mwache Dam project in Kwale County is completed as water from the Baricho Water Works would not have to be shared between Kilifi County and Mombasa as is the case currently.
Kilifi County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka said Kilifi County Government had assured the County Steering Group that it had set aside some money to complete water projects and initiate new ones in the area in order to address the water shortage experienced in many parts of the county.
By Emmanuel Masha