More than 400,000 people on the coast are in dire need of food, with urgent intervention required in four of the region’s six counties, authorities said.
Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River and Lamu are among the 23 counties on the national government’s red list as the drought devastated Kenya’s northern, eastern and coastal regions.
A number of boarding schools in Tana River County have already closed due to water shortages as humanitarian organizations are warning of an impending situation if urgent action is not taken.
The cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss measures to help starving Kenyans.
Agriculture Cabinet Minister Peter Munya said some of the measures the government is considering include buying cattle from shepherds and making cash transfers.
“The government will submit a plan to protect livestock farmers through the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee (NDICC). The state will buy cattle from people in drought areas so that they will not suffer losses if the animals die. “” Said Mr. Munya.
According to the Kenyan Red Cross, Kilifi leads the coast in the number of starving people, followed by Kwale, Tana River and Lamu.
Succumb to hunger
“We have more than 145,000 people in dire need of water and food in Kilifi and around 130,000 in Kwale, while 78,000 people live in the Tana River. 21,000 people who live in Lamu are facing the same situation, ”said Hassan., Coordinator of the Kenyan Coast Red Cross Musa.
In Kilifi, a woman in the Whole constituency is said to have died a week ago.
Area MP Teddy Mwambire said the woman died of starvation in Goshi village on the outskirts of Bamba parish. He urged both national and district governments to move quickly and save lives.
In Lamu, at least Sh100 million is urgently needed to address the effects of the drought, the county steering group on food security (CSG) has said.
District Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the farmers had poor yields after the lack of rains last year.
The locust invasion made things more difficult as the little food that was grown along the riverbanks was wiped out by locusts – leaving the locals with empty granaries.
“The water sources have dried up and the few remaining are shared between humans and wildlife,” he said.
Presenting a report produced by CSG, Mr. Macharia said that more than 50 percent of the county’s households are lacking food, with Lamu East being hardest hit.
That year, Lamu received 83mm of rainfall, well below the long-term average of 284mm.
Suffer from malnutrition
At least 2,000 children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, according to Abdi Musa, the coordinator of the Tana River, the national agency for drought management.
The Tana North subdistrict did not experience any of the brief rains, hence dry water reservoirs, with the Kone and Asa areas in the Tana Delta bearing the brunt of the drought.
In Tana River, Assa, Wayu, Titila, Idi and Odoganda, elementary schools were closed due to the drought as children had to travel long distances in search of water.
“It’s dry everywhere. We can go without water for three months before the county government watercraft reacts, and there’s always a truck for the school and residents to share,” said Harrison Mwaringa, Assa’s principal.
Lesson plans are difficult to implement as teachers are drawn to the rush for water.
Deputy headmistress Cecilia Jilo said that despite food deliveries from the government, there is no water to boil because the water pans they depend on have dried out.
The long and arduous journeys in search of water, she said, tire both teachers and students and lead to poor performance.
“You can’t get good results with this kind of life. When class starts everyone is tired. We just motivate each other, but we need help,” she said.
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The deputy headmistress revealed that the drought disruption has exposed girls to defilement and early marriages.
She noted that many who have dropped out of school are unlikely to return and will certainly get married to older men in the community as their families try to survive the troubled economic times.
Critical services in various pharmacies in the district, such as maternity services, have also been suspended due to a lack of water.
Ms. Halima Ishmael, a resident of the Tana Delta, told the nation that bathing was prohibited in her home and that the little water available was reserved for cooking and drinking.
Tana Delta Deputy District Commissioner William Nasongo confirmed the situation is grave when he asked for urgent action.
“Whatever I’ve seen these people go through is sad, but I hope the government will respond very soon,” he said.
Mr. Nasongo urged residents to share the few resources available in peace.