The United Nations (UN) and aid agencies have appealed for $166 million to provide humanitarian assistance to communities in the North of the country who have been affected by the ongoing drought in East Africa.

A prolonged dry spell in Kenya has left at least 3 million people facing severe food shortages.

There are fears that the number may reach 4 million by June 2017. 16 million East Africans are faced with starvation following a third consecutive year of failed rains.

The Kenyan government has declared the drought a national disaster. It has set aside $100M for a nine-month response plan towards dealing with the effects of the drought. That plan faces a $108M funding gap, the UN appeal aims to complement the plans by the East African nation.

“Three million currently (are) facing severe food shortages. Malnourishment rates have gone up exponentially. Water scarcity has been compounded. There are challenges of large number of children, who are out of school simply due to lack of food,” says UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya, Siddharth Chatterjee.

Half of Kenya’s 47 counties most of which are Arid and Semi Arid lands are affected by the drought. Severe food shortages are also been experienced in neighbouring countries.

This is going to be one identified and remembered as one of the worst droughts to affect this country in decades”

Both Kenya and the donors are now talking of long term solutions to food insecurity.

“This is going to be one identified and remembered as one of the worst droughts to affect this country in decades. The severity, time and space is becoming more compounded and complicated,” states Principal Secretary, Agriculture Ministry of Kenya, Richard Lesiyampe.

Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross, Abbas Gullet says the problem will take years of investment to over the effects of the drought.

“These areas which is two thirds of the country will take many years of serious investment for us to overcome this problem.”

In February, the United Nations announced a $4.4 billion appeal to respond to the risk of famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. South Sudan has already declared a famine in parts of Unity state.

– By Sarah Kimani