Government and partners make initiatives to help famine stricken families

The number of people in need of humanitarian aid in Marsabit County has continued to rise owing to persistent drought.

The county which lies in the arid and semi-arid belt of the country has suffered rain failure for the last four seasons leaving thousands of families without a source of livelihood.

Currently, 175,871 residents are living on humanitarian aid that include food rations and water as well as animal feeds for their surviving livestock.

According to analysis by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) the above figure is projected to rise to 321,000 by September this year.

Marsabit County drought coordinator (CDC) Parkolwa Mustafa noted that rain failure for that long had led to poor performance in the livestock and crop sectors which are the main source of livelihood for the local pastoralist communities.

“The little rains received in some parts of Saku and Moyale constituencies were below normal and poorly distributed,” said Mustafa adding that the entire county is reeling under severe drought with North Horr and Laisamis constituencies being the hardest hit.

The dry spell has occasioned the depletion of pasture fields while water sources especially the open ones like pans and earth dams have not re-charged.

Mr Mustafa added that high temperatures also led to great losses of surface water due to evaporation which has resulted in the over use of boreholes.

Lack of water and pasture has claimed both small and big stocks in their thousands whereas those that are still surviving are weak and in poor health making them unfit for the accessible market.

The situation has weakened the economic base of the local communities as livestock is the main source of income and wealth hence making them unable to buy food.

The government, with the help of development partners, has devised various ways and initiatives of intervention to cushion the communities against famine by providing relief food and cash to the most vulnerable families.

Mr Mustafa disclosed that 20,453 households have been enlisted into the social protection programme with the government paying out Sh 110,480,800 every month to the beneficiaries.

He added that the number of households under the under safety net programme (HSNP) was being reviewed upwards by 6,053 households to enable more families rendered vulnerable by the persistent drought to receive the monthly cash transfers.

Through NDMA, the government in its cardinal duty of ensuring that the citizenry’s safety is not threatened by such disasters has also been maintaining boreholes and supplying diesel to run the generator powered water sources.

“NDMA is doing water trucking in places like Korr and Laisamis where there is an acute water shortage after sources dried up” he said adding that 12 boreholes across the county have been supplied with 1,000 litres of fuel each.

The coordinator said that availability of clean water also ensured that learning in schools went on uninterrupted while activities like maternity and surgical services at remotely situated health centers were sustained.

The drought has also resulted in conflicts among herders as they competed for the control of the little grazing resources available especially in Marsabit Central Sub-county where the herdsmen have converged.

However the on-going Operation Rejesha Amani Marsabit came as a blessing as security has been beefed up and sanity nearly restored.

To ensure that students from poor backgrounds do not drop out of school, the government has provided assistance to 480 vulnerable secondary school students.

Forty students from 12 boarding secondary schools faced with challenges to pay school fees benefited after the government through NDMA paid Sh 5.75 million under the food for fees arrangement.

In the plan, orphaned and the most vulnerable students who have been identified with the assistance of the ministry of education benefited where three schools were selected from each of the four constituencies of Saku, Moyale, Laisamis and North Horr.

Each of the identified learning institutions received 80 bags of 25 kilogram rice and 10 bags of 90 kilogram of beans which the schools’ board of management converted into tuition fees for the beneficiaries.

“We dispatched 10.8 tons of beans and 24 tons of rice to the respective schools that were priced as tuition and boarding fees for the needy students,” he said.

In North Horr constituency which is the hardest hit in Marsabit County, the World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing emergency food aid to 3,500 households in a bid to avert starvation.

The severe drought propelled by climate change has deprived the area of rains for four successive seasons, causing an emergency drought response initiative by the organization that started two months ago.

The targeted families have received 492 metric tons of food comprising maize, beans and cooking oil for the months of May and June with the dispatch for the month of July amounting to 246 tons is set to begin in earnest.

Mr Samuel Kiarie, a Programme Officer with WFP told KNA at Qorka village, about 140 kilometers away from Marsabit County headquarters that poor performance of the livestock and agriculture sectors had exposed many families that were food secure to hunger.

Mr Kiarie observed that majority of the herders save for those who have moved to Saku area hoping to access pasture in Mt Marsabit forest which is a conservation area have migrated to neighbouring Ethiopia.

The organization, which is also undertaking an eight month sustainable food systems programme but which has been extended to one year owing to the prevailing drought, is appealing for emergency aid to the vulnerable residents of Marsabit County.

The official noted that WFP needed 130 million US dollars to enable it to effectively make interventions in eight drought ravaged counties in the country that include Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Baringo and West Pokot.

The organization which is implementing the initiative with the Strategies for Northern Development (SND) as its lead agency is also concerned over the high rate of malnutrition among children under five, terming the situation as dire.

WFP had started a cash transfer initiative at the beginning of the year but stopped the approach owing to the price rises of essential commodities.

“The changing market trends of food stuff due to inflation informed the decision to directly provide the support in kind,” said Kiarie.

The national government has also been giving monthly food assistance to cover those not covered by the help from other actors and whose number has been on the increase.

Marsabit County Commissioner Paul Rotich said that all the nine sub-counties are reeling under famine because of the prolonged dry spell that has left local communities who are largely pastoralists without a source of livelihood.

Mr Rotich said that the government had with stakeholders like WFP come up with elaborate strategies on how the affected could be assisted in order to reduce suffering and avert loss of lives.

The state department of special programmes through deputy county commissioners is doing regular monthly free distribution of relief food to vulnerable people in the county which is the hardest hit by drought in the country.

Mr Rotich said the monthly allocation to each of the nine sub-counties comprises 7.5 tons of rice, 19.4 tons of beans.

The County Commissioner said that in an effort to further address the issue of malnutrition, the upcoming deliveries will have 156 cartons consisting 24 tins each of corn beef from the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC).

The residents are grateful to the government and donors for coming to their aid but asked that the quantities of the rations be adjusted upwards as the number of needy cases was rising every day.

An elder from Turbi area Isacko Huka described the current drought as the worst ever climate phenomena to be witnessed in the area.

“Previous dry spells were normally short with minimal rains here and there were not like this one which has denied us rain for nearly two years now” he observed while mourning that the condition had robbed them their only source of livelihood through massive deaths of livestock.



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