Boosting emergency drought response in Kenya

Boosting emergency drought response in Kenya

02/08/2017

FAO has mobilized US$500,000 from its Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA)  response capacity – mainly supported by Belgium and Sweden – to tackle rising hunger in Kenya. Ongoing drought has triggered a humanitarian crisis, with food insecurity skyrocketing in northern and coastal areas of Kenya. An estimated 2.5 million people are in urgent need of assistance.

The drought has hit livestock-owning communities hardest, with rangelands scorched and water sources dried out, leading to major drops in milk production and even livestock deaths. While the April-June long rains brought relief to some, the rains failed in many counties and the Government’s long rains assessment – published on 28 July – showed malnutrition rates at critical or extremely critical levels (global acute malnutrition above 30 percent) in eight of the 23 arid and semi-arid land counties.

The deepening food insecurity and malnutrition is largely the result of reduced milk availability, depleted household food stocks and rising food prices. FAO’s Predicative Livestock Early Warning System (PLEWS) has demonstrated the direct relationship between forage availability for livestock and human malnutrition. The latest PLEWS data shows that forage condition will deteriorate rapidly through to the October short rains, with ever higher livestock mortality expected, further undermining the long-term food security of more than 500,000 households.

FAO started its drought response efforts in December 2016 and to-date has spent more than $2.8 million on livelihood support. The new funds will enable FAO to upscale its response to a further 20,000 households in the four most critical counties (Marsabit, Turkana, Mandera and Wajir), focusing on assistance to livestock owners. Support will include providing 280 tonnes of animal feed targeting 1,754 milking cattle (or equivalent small stock); installing community water tanks and repairing boreholes providing improved water access for up to 120,000 animals; providing drought relevant veterinary treatment for 35,000 animals; and purchasing 320 cattle (or small stock equivalents) for slaughter, thereby enabling the distribution of 27 tonnes of protein-rich meat to approximately 1,500 of the most vulnerable households.

Livelihoods are people’s best defence against hunger and catastrophe. Preliminary results of a return on investment study carried out by FAO this month showed the provision of animal feed for key breeding stock at a cost of $92 per household, ensured survival and increased milk production, with a return of $4.5 on every $1 spent. Investing in livelihoods from the onset of a crisis provides people with an opportunity to produce their own food and begin to rebuild their livelihoods when the rains return and the drought eases.

The assistance is being provided through SFERA’s Agricultural Inputs Response Capacity (AIRC) window, which allows FAO to release money quickly for rapid on-the-ground interventions. Belgium and Sweden’s support to SFERA is critical for rapid livelihoods assistance, ensuring communities struck by crisis are able to protect and rapidly recover their livelihoods.