<center>Kenya: IRIN Humanitarian Situation Report,2/24/97

Kenya: IRIN Humanitarian Situation Report,2/24/97

Department of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network

Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129

24 February 1997


1. As a result of successive poor rains, large parts of northern and eastern Kenya are currently facing a severe drought which is undermining the food security of at least two million people (1). This situation report follows DHA participation in two recent UN inter-agency assessment missions and includes information provided by the Arid Lands Resource Management Programme (ALRMP), the Drought Preparedness Intervention & Recovery Programme (DRIRP), the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS/USAID), UN agencies and NGOs.

2. The report focusses on those parts of the country which current information suggests have been most severely affected by the drought. These are the pastoralist districts of northern and north-eastern Kenya (Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Mandera, Marsabit/Moyale) and the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province (Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Mwingi, Mbeere and Tharaka-Nithi). The food security of the people in these districts is of particular concern because of the combination of climatic and economic factors which has made it very difficult for them to exchange livestock, grow, or buy their own food. Brief mention is also made of other areas reported to be seriously affected (2).


3. The drought in north and north-eastern Kenya follows poor rains during 1995 and well below average rains in the March-June long-rains season in 1996. These poor rains have since been exacerbated by a very late, poorly distributed and brief 1996 short-rains season, which normally lasts from October to December but which began in mid-November and ended abruptly at the end of November.

4. Pastoralism is the dominant livelihood in the north and north-east, supplemented by a limited amount of agriculture along the River Tana, which flows along the south of Isiolo district and through the centre of Garissa district, and the River Daua, which flows across the north of Mandera district along Kenya's border with Ethiopia. In addition, there are other pockets of crop farming in each district, such as Bute and Gurar in Wajir, Barissa and Takaba in Mandera and along the seasonal Ewaso Ng'iro River in Isiolo district. At present, however, none of these areas makes a significant contribution to the food security of these districts.

5. The failure of the rains has inhibited the recovery of vegetation regeneration and failed to fully replenish the pans and dams on which the pastoralists rely for most of their water needs. Most of the pans and dams in the north and north-east have now dried up altogether, while the pans that remain have attracted large livestock herds and are swiftly approaching exhaustion. The boreholes in operation remain an important source of water for both people and livestock, but are also under strain, because of overuse. In Marsabit, for example, all five boreholes along the road from Marsabit town to Moyale town are reported to have failed, creating a severe water shortage across the centre of Marsabit district.

6. Communities are finding it increasingly difficult to afford the diesel required to run the pumping operations, as well as spare parts for generators and pumps. Some areas now depend on water tankered in from outside, but the north and north-east has only a very small number of working tankers at present. During a recent UN inter-agency asessment mission it was reported that the only available tanker in Mandera district had broken down. In brief, the situation across the north and north-east is that surface water supplies for people and livestock are very scarce and progressively diminishing.

7. The shortage of vegetation and water prompted a large-scale migration of pastoralists and their livestock to Ethiopia and Somalia following the failed long-rains in March-June 1996. These communities are reported to have since returned, and to be congregating in areas which received rains during the short-rains season, notably Isiolo district, as well as moving within districts to individual pans and boreholes which still have water. It appears that most of the cattle population remains in neighbouring countries, while camels, which are relatively drought- resistant, have been brought back to Kenya. As people cluster around watering points, the environment is being damaged by overgrazing and the felling of trees for firewood and charcoal.

8. As pastoralists move further and further beyond their traditional grazing land in search of water and pasture, they are impinging upon the grazing territories of other nomadic groups, leading to conflict. There have been a growing number of cases of livestock rustling and banditry, including the looting of property and hijacking of vehicles. It has been suggested that this is related to the impoverishment of the population as a result of the drought.

9. Families have separated, with young men and teenagers accompanying the herds, and women, children and the elderly moving to urban centres in the hope of generating a small amount of income or receiving relief assistance. Families in Garissa town, interviewed by the recent UN mission, reported having travelled over 200 kms from Hulugho and Sangailu in Garissa South in order to reach Garissa. The town's displaced population, which includes people made destitute in the 1992/93 drought, has swelled further, according to the Garissa District Commissioner. In a separate development, education officials report an increasing number of parents have been forced to remove children from school because of their inability to pay fees.

10. The shortage of pasture and water reflects itself in deteriorating livestock health and prices, increasing livestock mortality rates and declining milk production across the north and north-east. In Isiolo, for example, prices for both small and large stock are very low at present, with prices for goats having fallen by 80% from Ksh 1,500 in December 1994 to 300 in December 1996. Prices for cattle dropped by 71% from Ksh 17,250 in December 1994 to Ksh 5,000 in December 1996 (3). The same was true for Mandera in recent months, where between October and December 1996 prices for sheep fell from Ksh 505 to 330, for goats from Ksh 633 to 505, for cattle from Ksh 3,139 to 2,319 and for camels from Ksh 3,411 to 2,084 (4). 11. The decline in the value of livestock has eroded the purchasing power of pastoralists. At the same time as livestock prices have fallen, the price of maize has increased, resulting in worsening terms of trade. Livestock markets are in a state of glut as pastoralists seek to sell off their stock, but food in stores is going unbought because the herders lack the means to purchase what is available. Worsening livestock health and increased mortality rates have been reported in Garissa, Wajir, Isiolo, Mandera and Marsabit/Moyale districts. Diseases of particular concern are Contagious Bovine Pleural Pneumonia (CBPP) and worm infestation.

12. These accounts are confirmed by a study of the terms of trade figures produced at the district level. In Wajir, the terms of trade from meat to maize fell from Ksh 28 per kg of meat to Ksh 23 per kg of maize in the first quarter of 1996 to Ksh 18 per kg of meat to Ksh 22 in the last quarter of the year (5). The same situation prevailed in Mandera, where between October and December 1996 the meat: cereal price ratio fell from Ksh 24:22 to Ksh 17:23. (6). In Isiolo, while there were improvements in the meat: cereal price ratio for most divisions in the last quarter of 1996, the terms of trade for pastoralists worsened in Merti and Sericho divisions (7).

13. The effect of food scarcity and declining milk production is making itself felt in terms of human health. Malnutrition rates among children under-five are reported to be rising in all the north and north-eastern districts. In Wajir, for example, the are up from 18.2% in the first quarter of 1996 to 34.7% in the last quarter. In Mandera, malnutrition among children is reported to have increased from 15.3% in September to 32.7% in December, while severe malnutrition has increased from 3.8% in September to 15.2% in December (8). In Marsabit/Moyale, 18% of children are malnourished compared to 14% in October (9). These malnutrition data were obtained using the MUAC method of measurement.

14. Malnutrition among children in the Garissa suburbs, where displaced people are currently arriving, is reported to be 34%, while the Merti and Sericho divisions of Isiolo district report child malnutrition rates of 28.9% and 33.6% respectively (10). In addition to rising malnutrition rates, populations are experiencing health problems associated with the lowered resistance to disease arising from their declining nutritional status as well as problems related to vitamin deficiences. In Wajir the recent UN mission received reports of diarrhoea, anaemia and respiratory tract infections, in Garissa cases of night blindness were reported, while in Isiolo there has been an increasing number of cases of dysentry.

15. The possibility of major outbreaks of infectious diseases is a growing concern, especially given the low rates of immunization coverage in the north-east. Immunization coverage against measles, for example, is estimated at 30% in Mandera district and less than 35% in Wajir district. Another concern is that public health standards are under growing strain as populations cluster in towns and around water sources.

16. Within the north and north-eastern districts, it is possible to distinguish divisions or areas which are particularly severely affected by drought. In Wajir, the south of the district has been most severely affected, as has the northern half of Garissa district. In Isiolo, Merti division in the north, Sericho in the east and Kinna in the south have been most affected. Little distinction has been made between the degrees of drought affectedness across Marsabit/Moyale, although Sololo division in the north-east received better rains than anywhere else and is the least affected area.

17. Turkana district in Kenya's north-west shares the same main climatic and economic characteristics as the other parts of north and north-eastern Kenya described above. It too has experienced very poor short rains, however its long-rains season in 1996, though late, was well above average, and therefore the district as a whole is less severely affected than its neighbouring districts to the east. Although livestock prices have fallen, the general health of livestock is reported to be `fair'. Malnutrition rates across the district, supplied by the MOH, show significant variations, with malnutrition of 32% in the north, 20% in central areas and 9% in the south. It appears likely that there are pockets within Turkana facing particular difficulties, even though the overall situation is less perturbing than elsewhere.


18. The marginal agricultural districts within Eastern Province are Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Mwingi, Mbeere and Tharaka-Nithi. In these districts the short-rains are more reliable than the long-rains, and account for up to 70% of total annual production. Maize is the major crop in all of these districts, while beans, sorghum, millet, pigeon peas and green grams are also grown. The last short-rains season, however, was very poor. Although some of the higher altitude areas received adequate rainfall, in general the rains, which lasted only between 2-4 weeks, were too short to enable the crops to reach maturity.

19. The result was large-scale crop failures in all of these districts, and the estimated shortfalls in maize production are dramatic. In Machakos, a harvest of only 4,500 MT of maize is expected, in comparison with average production of 45,000 MT. Most of this harvest is expected to come from the upper lying divisions of Kathiani, Kangundo and Central. In Makueni, agricultural officials expect a harvest of only 5,400 MT, compared to average production of 36,000 MT. In Kitui, 38,000 hectares were put to maize, but less than 9,000 MT is expected. The same is true for both Mwingi district, where 506 MT of maize is expected in comparison with the average of 15,300 MT, and in Tharaka-Nithi, which anticipates a maize harvest of 3,600 MT, as against the average of 20,000 MT. In terms of beans, the picture is even more grave, with all of these districts anticipating either no beans harvest at all or a tiny fraction of the average (11).

20. Exceptionally high market prices for both maize and beans reflect the failure of the harvest. Maize is about double its usual price for this time of year, at between 16-21 Ksh per kilogram in comparison to 7-11 Ksh per kilogram at this time last year. Most of the maize is reported to have been supplied from Nakuru and Kitale districts in Rift Valley province. The prices for beans are even more inflated, at between 35-45 Ksh per kilogram, in comparison to about 10 Ksh per kilogram in January 1996. The beans are reported to derive from Tanzania. While prices for staples are rising, the prices of livestock continue to fall, with goats fetching between 600-800 Ksh, about half their price at this time last year (12).

21. The districts of Makueni, Mwingi, Mbeere and Tharaka-Nithi are the most severely affected of all, having already experienced two poor rainy seasons prior to the recent short-rains. But the situation facing households in all of the districts in the marginal agricultural areas is very serious. They normally depend upon maize and beans not only for their own consumption but also for a large share of their family income. With the prices of staples so dramatically inflated, and livestock prices falling, their food security is under great stress. Some areas don't receive the long-rains at all; for these communities February 1998 will be the next harvest. Farm families are already adopting short term coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals per day, migrating in search of wage labour, and burning charcoal, but it appears unlikely these will suffice without an escalated food relief programme.

22. Two other districts also reported to be as severely affected by the drought as the marginal agricultural areas in Eastern province are the districts of Kajiado and Taita Taveta, in Rift Valley and Coast provinces respectively. They share similar agro-climatic conditions to districts like Makueni in Eastern province, however, and both have received poor rains over the past three rainy seasons. Kajiado is predominantly a pastoralist area, while Taita Taveta is primarily agricultural. Recent reports suggest that livestock in western Kajiado are coming under very severe strain and that there has been widespread crop failure in the low-lying areas of Taita Taveta. A FEWS/USAID assessment mission is currently visiting these areas and will report in the near future.

23. The rains also ended very early in the high potential districts of Embu and Meru in Eastern province and in most of Central Province. In these areas, maize harvests will also be much lower than average and prices for both maize and beans are about twice their usual level. In general, however, the situation in these areas is less grave than in the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern province. Short rains production is less significant in the high potential areas, contributing only 40% of total annual production. The previous rainy seasons in these areas have, moreover, been close to normal, which has helped farm families to build up the assets to see themselves through this period. In addition, these high potential areas are less dependent on maize and beans than the marginal areas, having diversified into other enterprises such as tea, coffee, dairy and pyrethrum (13).


The Government of Kenya

22. The Government of Kenya declared the drought a state of natural disaster on 28 January 1997 and appealed to donors to assist in responding to the crisis. For its own part, the Government has lifted the ban on maize imports and waived all duties on imported maize, pulses, milk and rice intended for relief feeding. The Government has also removed the import duty on commercial maize, which will act an an incentive for commercial importers to make up the estimated 1.3 million tonne shortfall in Kenya over the coming months. As FEWS has pointed out, the current maize deficit is not only the result of the failed short-rains but also reflects Kenya's growing structural deficit in maize production as well as a reduction in the area put to maize in the last long-rains season (14).

23. The Government will import 180,000 MT of maize, 27,000 MT of beans and 9,000 litres of oil for relief purposes. The Government expects the private sector to import the bulk of the maize shortfall and the first indications are promising. This month traders are expected to import 89,000 MT, while the estimated figure for March is 111,000 MT. Only once in 1994, the last year when maize imports were permitted, did traders import over 100,000 MT in a month (September 1994, when 115,000 MT was imported).

24. The Government is also stepping up its famine relief allocations of maize, which have been underway for several months. The number of 90kg bags distributed in Garissa, for example, increased from 2,500 bags in September 1996 to 4,500 in November and 10,000 in February. For the country as a whole, the number of maize bags distributed has increased from 50,000 in September, to 78,000 in November, 87,500 in January this year and an estimated 220,000 bags this month. This relief is currently distributed to 36 districts.

25. At about 20,000 MT per month the Government's relief effort is a major intervention. Aid agencies have expressed concerns, however, that the relief maize may not be reaching the most vulnerable groups in each community. With 36 districts receiving aid, the relief maize is spread thinly across the country, rather than targetted towards those districts most severely affected by the drought. Within the districts themselves, it has been reported that relief is distributed to everyone present at distribution sites, rather than targetted towards specific vulnerable groups. Another issue of concern is that relief maize is reportedly being sold off in order to pay for transport costs. This makes it likely that isolated communities will receive less aid than they are entitled to. 26. At the district level the local authorities are establishing relief committees to oversee and coordinate relief activities. Called Social Dimensions of Development Committees (SDDCs) and chaired by the respective District Commissioners, they will have a central role to play in ensuring that relief aid is targetted towards areas and communities who have been particularly affected by the drought. In many cases UN agencies and international NGOs working in rural areas participate in the SDDCs. UN AGENCY AND NGO PROGRAMMES

27. At present WFP and UNICEF are actively assisting in many of the country's drought-stricken areas. WFP has a regular school feeding programme reaching 340,000 children, many of whom are in drought-affected areas. In response to the current situation WFP has begun to undertake school feeding programmes in several districts previously not covered, meeting the needs of an additional 128,000 children, and will expand this programme again in March to reach a further 323,000.

28. As WFP currently provides food to all the schools in the north and north-east of Kenya, WFP will scale up in Garissa, Wajir, Isolo, Marsabit/ Moyale and Mandera by distributing extra food through selected NGOs. WFP's programme will, by March, be providing food in all of the most severely drought-affected districts described in this report, and is currently seeking funds for its expanded programme.

29. UNICEF is currently scaling up its programme in the most severely drought affected areas in the north-east and plans to meet one third of the requirements in the water, health and veterinary sectors if its appeal proposal is funded. Likewise, FAO, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Office of the President, plans to assist farmers in drought affected areas by providing seeds and handtools for the next planting season to farmers who would not otherwise be able to afford them. FAO will also assist in undertaking emergency veterinary vaccinations. UNDP and DHA will provide funds for income generating projects, emergency transport as well as monitoring and evaluation of the emergency operation.

30. There are also a large number of local and international NGOs and chruch organisations working across Kenya, many of them in the most severely drought affected areas. International NGOs and organisations present in the north-east include OXFAM, undertaking a major food distribution programme for 105,000 people in Wajir, MSF-Spain providing supplementary feeding in Mandera, Action Aid and German Agro Action in Isiolo and the Catholic Mission in Isiolo and Garissa. German Agro Action and GTZ are also working in some of the most severely affected districts in Eastern Province.

31. Coordination between the Government of Kenya, UN agencies, NGOs and church organisations will be a critical issue as the emergency programme scales up in the coming weeks. WFP has indicated its willingness to coordinate activities by all the different actors in the food sector, while UNICEF will coordinate water, health and livestock interventions. The UN Disaster Management team, chaired by the UN Coordinator in Kenya, will continue to review and monitor the progress of UN interventions during the drought period. A DHA Appeal has already been launched for the north-east and a further UN Appeal is expected shortly.


32. The current and planned relief programmes by the Government of Kenya, UN agencies and NGOs may be expected to avert the worst effects of the drought and prevent the onset of a large-scale crisis, in which large numbers of lives would be lost. Additional measures, however, are highly desirable. The UN system in Kenya has, as the result of an inter-agency assessment mission to the north-east, set out a series of recommendations to the Government for further actions in the food, water, livestock health and human health sectors (see Appendix). In terms of food alone, mention has already been made of the need to target relief aid towards the most drought affected districts and the most vulnerable groups in each community. It is also a matter of concern that food relief is reaching isolated communities in reduced quantities as the result of being sold off to meet transport costs.

33. The planned relief effort seeks to help communities until the onset of the long-rains, expected between March and June. Should the long-rains arrive late, be poorly distributed or end early, many of those communities which have managed adequately until now will be pushed to the margins of survival. Large parts of Kenya have now experienced three poor rainy seasons in succession and the food security of their communities is already threatened, as stocks and cash reserves approach exhaustion. If the long rains fail the current and planned relief programme will need to be reviewed and swiftly escalated to prevent an even greater crisis. The Government of Kenya, UN agencies and NGOs are keeping this issue at the forefront of their minds and beginning to prepare contingency plans.


1. This figure refers only to populations believed to be most severely affected by the current drought. It was derived by adding the total populations of the districts of Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo and Marsabit/Moyalo (using 1989 census figures plus estimated population growth rates) to the estimated numbers of people most severely affected in the marginal agricultural districts of Eastern Province.

2. The classication of most severely affected districts is that of the Famine Early Warning System, Kenya Vulnerability Update, February 1997. The report does not seek to imply that these are the only parts of the country which have been affected by the drought, and acknowledges the existence of pockets facing severe food stress within districts which may have received relatively good rains.

3. Garba Tulla Development Office.

4. ALRMP, Mandera District Drought Status Reports for 11.96 and 12.96.

5. Wajir District, Drought Situation report, 21.1.96.

6. As for 4.

7. DPIRP, Isiolo District Drought Monitoring Bulletin, 10-12.96.

8. As for 4.

9. DPIRP, Marsabit/Moyale District Drought Monitoring Bulletin, 1.97.

10. As for 7.

11. FEWS-USAID Kenya's Preliminary Harvest Assessment of Eastern and Central Provinces of Kenya, January 14-17, 1997.

12. As for 11.

13. As for 11.

14. FEWS, Kenya Vulnerability Update, February 1997. Appendix:

Recommendations to the Government of Kenya by the UN inter-agency assessment team which visited the north-east, 21-23 January:

Import taxes: The Government should lift the import tax on commercial maize and ensure the waiver of all taxes and duties on relief goods. This recommendation has been adopted by the Government.

Port clearance: The Government should give priority to relief commodities over commercial goods passing through the port of Mombasa in terms of granting berthing and discharge, as well as expiditing the process of customs clearance.

Infrastructure/Roads: The Government should urgently undertake further road improvements to help facilitate relief deliveries during the rainy season, giving priority to those areas where roads are in poorest condition.

Security Arrangements: The Government should formalize arrangements for security escorts of relief personnel and goods within high risk areas in order to ensure their safety and welfare.

Veterinary Drugs: The Government should subsidize the cost of veterinary drugs to help pastoralists afford basic and urgently-needed drugs for treatment of their livestock.

Human Health Services: The Government should waive charges to the public for the cost of drugs and ward admissions during the crisis period.

School Fees: The Government should consider waiving or subsidizing school fees in areas where the economy has been particularly hard hit by the drought.

GOK Relief Maize: The Government should ensure that maize relief is directed to those in greatest genuine need, and that adequate transport facilities and fuel are readily available to deliver GOK maize relief on a timely basis.

Emergency Resource Allocations: The Government should review and increase its allocation for emergency related needs of essential human drugs, outreach health services, supply and delivery of diesel fuel, spare parts, standby generating sets, veterinary drugs, vehicle maintenance and repairs.

Master Plan: The Government needs to develop a master plan in order to strengthen existing government programmes in the fields of land tenure, management of wet and dry season grazing patterns, strengthening of livestock marketing infrastructure, and drought preparedness and mitigation.


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN DHA IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: for more information. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

Date: Mon, 24 Feb 1997 18:20:59 +0300 From: UN DHA IRIN - Great Lakes <> Subject: Kenya: IRIN Humanitarian Situation Report, 24 Feb 97 97.2.24 Message-ID: <>

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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