The Annual Drought and Hunger Dirge We Sing Has to Stop

Kenya is currently facing one of its worst drought and famine seasons that we’ve ever experienced in years. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), 3.4 million Kenyans are facing hunger and starvation in Arid and Semi Arid Lands (ASALs).

To further exacerbate the situation, the animals were not spared from the devastating crisis. They are dying in droves, yet they are these pastoralist communities’ means of livelihood. One of the TV stations revealed that in Kajiado, the price of a cow has dipped from Ksh 20,000 to Ksh 500. Moreover, a goat is going for Ksh 100 from Ksh 5000 in an attempt to sell them before they die of hunger and malnutrition. This only exposes how dire and helpless the situation is.

Dr. Ruto’s government is working hard to look for solutions. We saw the Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua receive a cheque of more than Ksh 200 million from the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) which is aimed at helping those who are worst hit by the drought.

There are so many rights that are being violated not exactly by anyone but by circumstances. 

I spoke to Emmah Cherotich, an advocate who works at JP Consultants. My interest was to know which rights have been violated and she said one of them was the right to life. Not just the right to life but the right to have a dignified life. Ms Cherotich says that when there is hunger and malnutrition, children suffer food deficiency diseases such as marasmus, kwashiorkor. The mothers are also unable to express milk. 

In extreme cases this results in death. Oxfam International says that at least one person is dying every 48 seconds. “One person is likely dying of hunger every 48 seconds in drought-ravaged Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, according to estimates by Oxfam and Save the Children,” writes Oxfam.

Emmah also said that the right to dignity which is protected under the constitution is also violated. “People in hunger stricken places are malnourished and emaciated as shown in the media. They’re in desolate states and can’t fend for themselves. When they fall sick they can’t go to hospital because they’re weak and can’t even afford it. The children are also neglected by their parents because they go looking for food to feed the family. It leaves them vulnerable and miserable,” said the advocate.

This condition only exacerbates the image that the international media paints of Africa. Thanks to the global media houses, Africa is perceived as a desolate land of lack and misery. We’re shown to be needy of food and resources. The fact that the Kenyan government always reacts to the disasters doesn’t help the situation. Despite knowing that there may be the possibility of drought and famine each year, the government officials choose to sit duck and wait for the disaster to strike. They then start marshaling donors to provide relief food and stage financial interventions.

Let me ask a question concerning this matter. At the beginning of every financial year, the highest government officials beginning with the President and his deputy know that there is the danger of famine and drought. Why do they choose to ignore it and wait for the rain to start beating us? Why do they prefer to play catch up bearing in mind millions of Kenyans will be affected?

Over the past three years, Kenya has experienced irregular rain patterns. We’re a majorly rain fed country. According to the 2030 WRG organization, only 3% of our arable land is under irrigation. “Kenya’s agriculture is primarily rainfed; less than 3% of arable land is currently irrigated,” states the organization.

Which begs the question, now that we’ve clearly seen that rain is erratic in this country, what are the professionals in the ministry of water and those in charge of disaster preparedness doing? Why is there no policy that is being formulated to establish preemptive proactive measures and strategies to deal with drought and famine permanently?

Next year will we be singing the same dirge as we cringe at the images of dying animals and malnourished children on our screens simply because someone with the influence and authority chose to sit back and wait? Will the international media have another field day showcasing the sorry state of our country and further emphasizing the image that Africa is a dark and helpless continent?

For how long shall we rely on donors and international partners to sort out our hunger problems with the president flagging off lorries containing relief food?

The William Ruto government needs to write a different story for us. Water CS Alice Wahome, Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi, and Rebecca Miano the CS for East African Community and ASALs need to stem this situation.

According to the 2019 census conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Standards, only 30% of the population is connected to piped water. Since there are more dams which have been built by the national government and others by county governments, water should be efficiently distributed to needy households. Every Kenyan has a right to clean water and sanitation and those in ASAL areas are not children of a lesser God.

Even as Conference Of the Parties (COP) 27 happens in Egypt this November, Soipan Tuya the environment CS should collect ideas and strategies on how afforestation can be done especially in ASAL areas so as to prevent drought by attracting regular rainfall.

The annual drought and famine dirge has to come to an end. No more Kenyans have to suffer.

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Nasra Nanda

Nasra Nanda

Nasra Nanda is a Senior Associate in Dentons Hamilton Harrison and Matthews, a leading law firm in Kenya.

Gregor Pannike

Gregor Pannike

Gregor Pannike is the founder and managing director of Agema Analysts.

Liz Lenjo

Liz Lenjo

Liz Lenjo is the Founder and Managing Consultant of MyIP Legal Studio.

Angela Kioi

Angela Kioi

Angela Kioi is a legal compliance expert, negotiator and ADR practitioner.

Roy Mwamba

Roy Mwamba

Roy Mwamba is the founder and managing partner at Mwamba Gitonga Advocates.



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