The Kenyan government has conceded that it has been slow to respond to the drought situation that is ravaging parts of the country. At a media breakfast meeting on drought management, Northern Kenya Minister Mohamed Elmi conceded that the government's response in tackling the situation this year was not pleasing.
"It is unacceptable that the response this year is so late and not as well coordinated as before, Said Minister Elmi adding "It is not the consequence of ill will. Rather, it results from structural problems in the way both drought and arid lands development are addressed in Kenya,"
"The government will, however, reverse this situation so that communities are better cushioned against the impacts of drought."
Special Programmes Assistant minister Muhamud Ali concurred. "The situation on the ground is bad...that's the truth," Mr Ali said.
"The government is, however, doing something on the ground. This fire-fighting business must stop...it is high time we in the government tighten our belts, roll our sleeves and see to it that Kenyans don't die of starvation."
Some of the counties worst affected by the drought include: Garissa, Marsabit, Isiolo, Tana River, Tharaka, Wajir, Mandera, West Pokot, Samburu, Baringo, Kajiado, Makueni, Kwale, Kilifi and Turkana. Mr Michael Tiampati of the Pastoral Development Network Kenya said despite warnings by the meteorological department of an impending drought last year, no plans were put in place by the government on how it would be tackled. As a result, the drought has led to deaths of both humans and animals.
Even though it was credited with providing both food and non-food supplies to some of the drought stricken areas, the government was accused of only reacting to such emergencies and not preparing well in advance to tackle such situations. Mr Ali said the government would continue to undertake decisive measures to minimise the negative effects of the drought that has so far affected at least five million Kenyans. "This has been done through provision and internal reallocation of funds amounting to Sh9.5 billion to ministries and sectors directly participating in response efforts," he said. He said so far, 57 trucks had been mobilised to assist in rapid delivery of relief commodities to the affected districts.
The government, he added, was currently providing food assistance to one million Kenyans with the World Food Programme distributing the same to another 1.6 million others. By the end of last month, some 94,500 bags of maize, 32,600 bags of beans, 24,600 bags of rice, and 16,650 cartons of cooking oil had been distributed to the affected persons.
He said his Ministry had been allocated a further Sh1.55 billion which they intend to procure 240,000 bags of maize, 134,831 bags of rice out of which 50,000 bags will be given to WFP to boost its on going school feeding programmes amongst others. In the livestock sector, Mr Ali said the off-take programme, where the government purchases cattle from the drought stricken areas, had already began. The government has allocated Sh1.1 billion for this exercise, he added.
At the event, Mr Elmi proposed the establishment of a Drought Management Authority, which will amongst others, effectively coordinate drought response in the country. He further proposed the creation of a National Drought Contingency Fund to complement the work of the authority. The body, he says, will allow financial flows to drought-affected areas unimpeded.