Kenya warns of worsening food crisis as drought escalates in arid counties

NAIROBI, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- The food crisis in Kenya's arid counties could escalate amid suppressed October to December 2022 rainy season that led to crop failure, and drying of pasture and water sources, a senior official said Wednesday.

Rebecca Miano, the cabinet secretary in the Ministry of East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development, said that the latest projections indicate that hunger, malnutrition and water stress are likely to escalate countrywide this dry season.

"The drought situation remains critical in 22 out of the 23 arid and semi-arid counties following poor rains through October to December when the short rains season usually appears," Miano told journalists in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Drought-related livestock mortalities had spiked in the arid lands, worsening hunger, malnutrition and income losses for herders, noted Miano, warning that delayed and poor rainfall distribution coupled with fall armyworm infestation have worsened food insecurity and childhood malnutrition in the country's arid northern outposts.

Miano said the national government had partnered with devolved units, relief agencies and the private sector to scale up a humanitarian intervention for the 4.35 million people affected by drought.

Some of the interventions to help alleviate suffering among drought-affected communities include the provision of relief food, cash transfers, screening and treatment for malnutrition, water trucking, supply of livestock feeds and livestock offtake, said Miano.

She revealed that as of December 2022, 14,300 households in five arid counties had received emergency food aid following President William Ruto's appeal for assistance from the private sector and bilateral partners.

Miano stressed the government's commitment to building the resilience of communities in the drylands already reeling from climate-induced recurrent droughts.

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