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KENYA: Act now to mitigate drought effects, say agencies
NAIROBI/ISIOLO, 19 January 2011 (IRIN) – Kenya can best mitigate the devastating effects of recurrent drought by strengthening the livestock sector so that it becomes a viable money-based economy, and improving pastoral food and water security, say aid officials.
“Responding to drought has largely remained a reactive mechanism over the years,” Enrico Eminae, Action Aid Kenya’s Northeast Regional Coordinator, told IRIN. “There is also a lack of a coordinated approach by CSOs [civil society organizations] and government in addressing drought-related issues at all levels.”
According to the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) Secretary-General, Abbas Gullet, drought mitigation should focus on addressing vulnerability factors through activities such as dam construction and investments in irrigated farming in marginal areas.
The prevailing drought is expected to hit an estimated 1.8 million people, says the KRCS, mostly pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and those in marginal agricultural areas in the Coast, Eastern, North Eastern and the North Rift of Kenya.
In the northern Isiolo, Marsabit, Moyale and Samburu districts, at least 150,000 people urgently need food aid, most of them women, children and the elderly. Long distances to relief food centres and the inability to secure manual work have added to their vulnerability.
“The situation is tough, but most families have taken different steps to cope with the hardships. Some are skipping meals; some have taken their children to school so that they can get food under the school-feeding programme. In some cases, families are [eating] wild fruits,” Bitacha Sora, a KRCS officer in the north, said.
Food and milk prices have risen, driven by reduced availability as herders migrate. A lack of water for domestic and livestock use is also forcing residents to rely on water vendors, who are charging exorbitant prices – 60 shillings (US$0.75) per 20-litre water can.
In the coastal Tana River region, drought could lead to conflict between residents and migrating livestock herders, some of whom have come to the more fertile Tana Delta area from northeast Kenya and neighbouring parts of Somalia, warned the Assistant Minister for Information and Communication, Dhado Godana.