More than 3.6 million Kenyans will be in need of relief food by August, a United Nations humanitarian agency has said in a report on the food situation in the country.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the delayed planting may result in a below average harvest, increasing the number of people in need of assistance from the current 2.6 million to 3.6 million.
The report comes in the wake of maize flour shortage crisis despite the government subsidising the price of the staple food and warning millers that they will be punished if they withhold the commodity.
According to the report, which was released on Thursday, nearly 344,000 children and more than 37,000 pregnant and lactating women are acutely malnourished and are in urgent need of treatment.
“From March to May, there was a 32 per cent increase in the total number of acutely malnourished children,” the report said.
The UN agency said the lack of adequate funding is preventing partners from scaling up multi-sectorial interventions to assist communities severely affected by drought.
The report stated that the onset of the March to May long rains was delayed and characterised by uneven geographical distribution and prolonged dry spells.
“Although some Southeastern and Coastal areas recorded above normal rainfall, Kenya was largely sunny and dry throughout March and experienced depressed rainfall in April and May,” said the report. “This resulted in poor crop performance and even crop failure in some regions. March to May seasonal rainfall has ceased over most parts of the country except for Western and Coastal areas and some of the central highlands, including Nairobi,” the report added.
It said although pasture for animals and water availability had improved in some pastoral areas of Rift Valley and northeastern Kenya, it was likely to deteriorate by August.
The organisation in its report also cited the infestation of armyworms in 25 counties, the steep increase in staple food prices and resource-based conflicts as other causes of food insecurity.
“Staple food prices are expected to remain high due to below average crop production, uncertainty over supply and hoarding,” it said.
In February, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought in Kenya this year a national disaster and since then, the government through various ministries has put in place interventions in three phases for the allocation of Sh5.4 billion, Sh7.4 billion and Sh11.1 billion in each.
The Kenya Natural Disaster Management Authority, with the support of European Union, has so far disbursed Sh800 million from July 2016 to date to support drought interventions.
Other interventions include the World Bank funded National Agricultural Insurance Programme launched in March, which saw the government purchase drought insurance from various private insurance companies to assist vulnerable pastoralists.
In Marsh, the UN also launched an appeal for $I66 million and raised $71 million.
The Food and Agriculture Organization o the United Nations has predicted a continuing threat to food security and nutrition across most Arid and Semi-Arid Areas till September.