Addressing The Red Alert: A Call for Humanitarian Assistance.

For the third consecutive season, rains have failed in the vast Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in Kenya. This has led to reduced pasture for animals, failure in food production and lack of water for domestic use. Drought is eminent and the clear picture of loss is depicted by the sight and smell of decomposing carcasses.

Effects of drought in Garissa County.

In Garissa County, the residents rely on livestock keeping and crop production that are dependent on rainfall performance. The reduced annual rainfall seasons has a direct impact on the food and nutrition security of the population. While staple food production declined nationally by 5 to 10 per cent, the impact is worse in the county. Farmers were hit by a sharp decline in food and milk production, many animals died and those that survived are in poor condition. Wild animals have moved closer to the people and turned water sources to their permanent habitat hindering humans from accessing water.

The extreme poor performance of long and short rains spell doom for the pastoralist community that was yet to recover from the 2015/2016 drought. The population is experiencing varied levels of food insecurity and is on a worsening trend. Many families are hungry and thirsty. ActionAid International Kenya responded to the drought situation guided by its humanitarian signature; Women leadership, Accountability, and transparency, and shifting power.

According to Yusuf Abdi, the Programme Coordinator at ActionAid’s Kamuthe Local Rights Programme, all emergency response work at ActionAid is linked to sustainable development and addresses the broader question of climate justice, social exclusion, access to basic services, access to productive assets and just democratic governance.

“We are working in partnership with local women-led Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) who have received training to carry out response work whenever needed. There is also dire need for intervention by both government and humanitarian agencies,” said Yusuf Abdi.

Drought has made pastoralists share food with livestock due to the lack of grass.

Some farmers reported up to 90 per cent loss of their livestock and they could not sustain the remaining 10 percent because of either the drying up of water pans and dams or the constant presence of hippos in the water sources. This compels the herders to travel tens of kilometers in search of water and pasture. It is not unusual to see young boys, elderly men and even women walking long distances under the sweltering heat in search of water and pasture for the livestock. The same case applies to women and girls whose distance to the nearest water source for domestic use has increased.

Children under the age of five years, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and the elderly are staring at a malnutrition situation. The current climate change presentations serve this category harsh conditions to fend for themselves or even compete with the able bodied to access food and nutrition. They live on hope that relief food will be provided like in the past in such circumstances. However, that has not been the case. The last time the community received humanitarian assistance was in June 2021 when they received cash transfers.

“It is a tragedy for the people of Garissa. We severed the shocks of locust invasion, Covid-19 and the current drought situation is worrying. Food and water prices in the market have soared making these precious commodities unaffordable by a majority. Many vulnerable families risk facing starvation and we are pleading for humanitarian assistance as the situation is bound to escalate” said Yusuf Mahmoud, a farmer in Garissa County.

The drought situation has dealt a heavy blow on the family unit with increased cases of breakups, school going children dropped out to help their parents with work due to termination of school feeding programme, herders lost their lives while in the process of looking for pasture and water for cattle and glaring conflict between wild and domesticated animals.

There is an urgent need to address the humanitarian situation in Garissa before it escalates to irreversible levels. ActionAid International Kenya established that it has been close to a year since the community they work with received relief aid. They recounted their losses and appealed for urgent humanitarian aid. In their list, they asked ActionAid International Kenya to revive the relief food kitty and to prioritise the most vulnerable.

The community’s most immediate needs include food assistance, livestock destocking and commercial take-off, farm inputs, dignity packs, supplements for infants, livestock feed and cash transfers. If the current climate change presentations in ASAL is anything to go by, the realisation of the Kenya vision 2030 and its national pathway for food security and nutrition will not be feasible. It is projected that the 2.1 million people living in the region without a doubt, will require humanitarian assistance to survive. The current situation is devastating, and it calls for immediate and accelerated response.

Structures of beneficiaries are also shaping the government’s response during emergencies including social protection programmes e.g., safety nets.

ActionAid International Kenya (AAIK) work with women-led relief committees and community-led disaster management committees putting women in full control of our entire response processes which includes procurement of food, identification of beneficiaries, distribution and complaint resolution is bearing fruits. The case of Marafa LRP and Kamuthe LRP, women-led relief committees and community-led disaster management committees have become the point of feedback to government hunger safety net programmes. This showcases the innate ability of women to take leadership of emergency programmes that not only deliver on the immediate needs aimed at alleviation of suffering but also that have a long-term impact in addressing chronic inequalities within communal structures and in the delivery of public services.

Women and children are also affected as they have to travel for long distances in search of water.

On the other hand, The Red Alert was not foreseen earlier in the year, yet with the increased effects of the drought and the expanding humanitarian crisis, it was necessary to adapt programs to be able to respond. It was also noteworthy that the AAI declared the Alert through its Secretary General. This led to increased support and mobilization of resources within the Federation, even though more work still needs to be done regarding the fundraising efforts.

The work with local communities who championed various causes gave voice and power to women especially women in informal social movements. They were therefore able to pull together to support female candidates in the elections and this enhanced the number of women elected to different offices nationally. The engagement with the AAUK Board and the rights holders was also seen to be a useful strategy of ensuring that there was communication and a shared understanding between duty bearers and rights holders, and this needs to happen more frequently.

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