Leaners from schools in sixteen counties classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (Asal) have expressed joy as their schools implement the school feeding programme.
The schools have also experienced enrolment outbursts since introduction of the programme as absentee learners crawled back to school.
The government through the Ministry of Education disbursed funds for the programme in January 2022. The funds were credited to Home Grown School Meals Programme accounts in various schools in Asal counties.
According to the Ministry the funds will cover the remaining twenty two days of term three of 2022. The Ministry warned school heads against misuse of the funds.
The sixteen counties which received the government funding to implement the school feeding programme are;
1. Baringo county
2. Elgeyo Marakwet county
3. Embu county
4. Kajiado county
5. Kilifi county
6. Kitui county
7. Kwale county
8. Laikipia county
9. Lamu county
10. Machakos county
11. Makueni county
12. Nairobi county
13. Narok county
14. Nyeri county
15. Taita Taveta county
16. Tharaka Nithi county
On September 8, 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought affecting parts of the country a National Disaster and instructed the National Treasury and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to spearhead government efforts to assist affected households including water and relief food distribution as well as livestock uptake.
Three consecutive poor rainy seasons in the Asal have exhausted families’ coping capacities and left more than 2.9 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
In October 2021, some areas of coastal and south-eastern Kenya reported their worst rainfall performance since 1981.
The worsening drought has significantly hampered crop production and damaged livestock, leaving nearly 2.4 million people in the ASAL region struggling to put food on their table every day including around 368,000 people in emergency levels of hunger, and over 523,000 children under age 5 in urgent need of treatment for acute malnutrition.
Water sources for both people and livestock also dried up, forcing families to walk longer distances and causing tensions among communities, which has led to an increase in inter-communal conflict.
In some counties, families have started to adopt extreme coping mechanisms. Cases of child marriage have been reported in some areas and school dropouts reported in Kilifi, Kwale and Tana River, where children are engaging in labour or survival activities to support their families, including producing charcoal to generate income or walking in search of water.
In Baringo county schools failed to open in term three due to severe drought that made families to leave the villages in search of pasture and water for their livestock
Frail children, emaciated elderly men and drained women paint a grim picture of the drought-hit Tiaty constituency in Baringo county.
According to government statistics released last November, water levels in most sources are below normal.
Reuben Nyangaluk, a resident of Ripkwo ward, says the situation has been worsening by the day, with little or no government intervention.
“We don’t have food and our livestock do not have pastures. Water is a problem. What are we supposed to do?” he says, trying to explain why women, children and the elderly are the only ones left to suffer hunger pangs in the villages.
He further reveals that school going children cannot attend classes as their parents and guardians have been forced to shift to other places in search of food, water and pasture.
In November last year the Government disbursed Sh1.2 billion for purchase and distribution of food in 23 Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties to benefit 2.5 million people who are hard hit by drought.
The Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizens Affairs and Special Programmes, Prof Margaret Kobia, said the government also disbursed another Sh450 million to Kenya Defence Forces for livestock off-take, purchase and distribution of livestock feed.
Briefing the media at a Nairobi hotel after holding a consultative meeting with development partners in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in the ASAL sector working group in Kenya, Prof Kobia said to respond to the National Disaster, the Multi-Agency Government Response Mechanism team has put in place measures to ensure that citizens of the affected counties are urgently supplied with food and other commodities to sustain their livelihoods.
To adequately address the impending crisis, Prof Kobia said the government has identified priority needs in key sectors amounting to Sh7.3 billion to cover the costs of delivering food and safety needs, livestock, health and nutrition, agriculture, education and water for the period ending December 2021.
“As government, we are committed to ensure that all steps are taken to address the drought crisis in the country. I wish to thank all stakeholders, including our development partners, for continuing to partner with the government to attend to this national disaster,” said the CS.
She also announced that Sh350 million has been allocated to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation for water trucking while Sh500 million has been allocated to National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), through the European Union, for drought emergency response in non-food interventions.
Prof Kobia added that currently, eight counties are in the ‘alarm’ drought phase including Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River, Turkana and Wajir, where the outlook for the 2021 short rains is worrying with a further 12 counties being on the brink of sliding from ‘alert’ to ‘alarm’ phase.
The CS said the government is shifting from the distribution of physical food to cash transfer strategies in the fight against the negative impacts of drought in the country to increase efficiency and accountability.
“I wish to assure the country that the government will continue streamlining its disbursements under the social protection interventions through regular cash transfers every two months with the cash transfers targeting 369,000 vulnerable households and 734,119 vulnerable individuals,” she added.
Prof Kobia assured the country, that the government is focused and firmly on the right trajectory towards winning the war against the negative impacts of drought.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Dr Stephen Jackson, during the briefing, said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with Agricultural organizations are targeting to assist over 800,000 people with food during this period of drought.
“We are going to offer 50 percent which is equivalent to 34 million US Dollars to fight against drought in Kenya,” he said.