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The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of East African Community (EAC), Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) and Regional Development Rebecca Miano Saturday responded to 14 Senators from ASAL regions who demanded for drought be declared a national disaster.

In her response, Miano noted that Kenya is among the Horn of Africa countries that are currently experiencing a prolonged drought registering five consecutive failed rainfall seasons since the October to December 2020 short rains.

Due to this, “22 out of the 23 Arid and Semi-Arid (ASAL) counties and 45 wards in 9 additional counties in Mt. Kenya, Rift Valley and the Lake Victoria regions are affected by drought. Loss of livelihoods has been reported as a result of crop failure and livestock mortalities. Declining livestock market prices and the steep cost of foodstuffs and other consumer commodities has further compounded the prevailing situation,” she said.

Noting that the issues raised by the senators were important, she however reassured Kenyans that the government, with the support of development partners, the private sector and other non-state actors, is making every effort to scale up drought response interventions in order to protect lives and livelihoods of affected citizens.

In addition, the CS noted that Former President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared drought in parts of Kenya a national disaster on 8th September 2021.

“Following the declaration of the drought disaster, the government started scaling up drought response interventions as humanitarian agencies launched a Flash Appeal for Kenya for the period covering October 2021 to October 2022 (the appeal was revised in May 2022). In November 2022, the government and the UN launched another Joint Flash Appeal.”

On Emergency Assessment of the situation, Miano said that the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) is currently coordinating a multi-agency/multi-sector assessment of the 2022 short rains season to ascertain its impact on food security in the country.

“The findings of the assessment will be released to stakeholders in mid-February 2023. That report will inform the steps the government will take thereafter.”

On the supply of relief food to affected populations, the CS noted that currently, more than 89 development partners and non-state actors are involved in drought response in ASAL counties.

“As of December 2022, the agencies had mobilised about Ksh 44.7 billion for drought response, flash appeals included,” she said.

In addition, the private sector-led National Steering Committee on Drought Response established by President William Ruto in November last year has mobilised more than Ksh 600 million.

“In December, the Steering Committee distributed food hampers to 14,300 food insecure households in Kilifi, Kitui, Samburu, Marsabit and Meru counties under the Wakenya Tulindane initiative, targeting 2,860 households in the worst affected sub-counties,” she added.

Further, between July and October 2022, the government disbursed Ksh 1.07 billion as regular cash transfers to households in Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera and Wajir counties under the Hunger Safety Net Programme implemented by NDMA. During the same period, an additional Ksh. 409 million was disbursed as scale-up cash transfers in response to drought in Marsabit, Mandera and Wajir counties.

Other ongoing drought response interventions noted by the CS include commercial and onsite slaughter livestock off-take by the Kenya Meat Commission, repair of boreholes and water trucking by NDMA as well as wildlife recovery interventions, including desilting of water pans in parks, by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

In conclusion, the CS reiterated that the government is doing everything possible to ease the suffering of Kenyans affected by drought, albeit with meagre fiscal resources.

Miano was responding to queries raised by 14 senators who put the government on the spot claiming that millions of residents in ASAL regions are on the brink of starvation due to the effects of the ongoing drought.

The 14 include Senators Ledama Kina(Narok), Ali Roba(Mandera), Danson Mungatana(Tana River), Mohammed Chute(Marsabit), James Lomenen(Turkana), Abbas Mohammed(Wajir), Lelegwe Ltumbesi(Samburu), Stewart Madzayo(Kilifi), William Kisang( Elgeyo Marakwet), Joseph Githuku( Lamu), Lenku Seki( Kajiado), Peris Tobiko (Nominated), Hezena Lemalatian(Nominated), Mariam Omar(Nominated) called on the government to address the matter with urgency.

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