On a visit to one of the driest areas in northern Kenya today, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, saw the devastating impact of drought on rural communities and called for international support for communities affected by conflict and drought in Kenya and the Horn of Africa.
The third consecutive year of drought in the Horn of Africa is causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease and triggering large scale population movements.
Some of the worst-affected communities live along the Mandera triangle, where the borders of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia meet; a region that witnessed outbreaks of chikungunya, dengue, AWD/cholera and measles in 2016.
“Famine has reared its ugly head in neighbouring South Sudan, Somalia is at risk for the second time this decade, and more than 2.7 million Kenyans are severely food insecure,” warned Stephen O’Brien. “Crops are failing, food prices are rising, and families are going hungry. The spectre of hunger and disease is haunting East Africa again. We need to put a stop to this.”
USG O’Brien travelled to the remote village of Bandarero in Moyale, Marsabit County where he spoke to families facing severe food insecurity. Many of those he met said they had very little access to water, their livestock had perished, and their children were struggling to stay in school.
Half of Kenya’s 47 counties are affected by drought and the Government has declared a national drought emergency. The food insecure population has more than doubled – in less than a year – and an estimated 350,000 children, pregnant women and new mothers are acutely malnourished.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator visited several UN, Kenyan Government and private sector supported initiatives, including school meals for children, malnutrition screening, water trucking, cash transfers and livestock support programmes.
The Kenyan Government has pledged US$99 million to support national drought response efforts and committed to enhancing regional cooperation. But the scale of the crisis is outpacing existing capacity. According to the United Nations, more than $2 billion is required for humanitarian assistance in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia in 2017.
“I am here to say to the people of Kenya that the international community stands with you, and together we will get through these difficult times. We must act early, together, now,” said Stephen O’Brien.