A woman scoops water in a dry riverbed near Kataboi village in remote Turkana in northern Kenya.

Kenya’s Drought Worsens in the Wake of Below-Average Rainfall

At a dried up river bed, a woman fills a water jug near Kataboi in northern Kenya. Picture: Marisol Grandon/Department for International Development

At a dried up river bed, a woman fills a water jug near Kataboi in northern Kenya. Picture: Marisol Grandon/Department for International Development (DFID)

The Rundown

Low rainfall levels in late 2016 have intensified drought conditions in Kenya, leading to food and water insecurity in arid and semi-arid regions. The drought has already triggered livestock deaths, crop failure, and school closures. This month, the Kenyan government warned that without urgent and appropriate action, Kenya risks conditions similar to the 2011 drought, which resulted in famine and death. Lawmakers in the driest regions are imploring the government to declare the drought a national disaster.

“We appeal to President Kenyatta to declare this situation a national disaster. Over 70 per cent of this country is arid and semi-arid and are seriously affected by drought.” — William Cheptumo, Baringo North Member of Parliament, commenting on Kenya’s drought during a press conference

By The Numbers

1.3 million Number of Kenyans who are food insecure as a result of the drought. This number is expected to rise to at least 2 million in 2017.

11 counties Number of Kenyan counties at the “Alarm” stage of drought classification. This ranking is based on indicators such as rainfall, vegetation, access to water, and crop production.

20 kilometers Distance that some Kenyans must travel in order to fetch water. Many children are skipping classes or dropping out of school to aid their families in collecting water.

Science, Studies, And Reports

Crop production has plummeted in several regions of Kenya, according to a special alert published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Rainfall levels were low from October to mid-December, with most agricultural areas reporting 30 to 55 percent less rainfall than normal. In coastal regions, rainfall dropped 80 to 90 percent below average. These conditions stifled crop planting and growth, likely signaling an unfavorable “short-rains” harvest in February 2017.

On The Radar

Many Kenyan pastoralists are migrating to the neighboring countries of Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda in hopes of finding water. These areas are equally drought-stricken, however, prompting concern about potential conflicts as the amount of available water and pasture dwindles.

Sources And Further Reading

National Drought Early Warning Bulletin
Drought To Intensify In Kenya In 2017, New Early Warning System Shows (Reuters)
Kenya Warns Drought May Worsen Food Security (News Ghana)
Kenya: 2 Million Kenyans Face Hunger As Drought Bites (All Africa)
Kenyans Bracing For Tough Times As Worst Drought In 5 Years Looms (The Standard)
Kenya: MPs Plead for Relief Food for Drought Stricken Constituents (All Africa)
MPs Want Hunger Declared National Disaster (Relief Web)
Alarming food insecurity in several areas of East Africa due to severe drought (FAO)