By Joyce Ojanji

Severe drought is projected to leave approximately 5.4 million people in Kenya without adequate access to food and water between March and June 2023, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

The IRC forecast indicated a 43% increase in the number of people facing high levels of food insecurity compared to the same period last year.

Warning that 1.2 million people would be facing food insecurity at the emergency level, the second-most severe of the five-tier international classification, during this period, the IRC said this number may keep rising as drought conditions persist, with weather forecasts predicting that the upcoming March-May rains will underperform.

Mohamed El Montassir, the Kenya country director for the IRC, said that about 970,000 children between six and 59 months old, along with 142,000 pregnant or lactating mothers in the East African nation, would likely suffer from acute malnutrition over the course of the year.

He underlined that this would be an unprecedented sixth year in a row of the poor rainy seasons in Kenya, with potentially catastrophic humanitarian impacts.

According to the IRC, the ongoing drought in Kenya has resulted in the death of over 2.4 million livestock, a heavy blow to pastoralist communities who depend on them for food and income.

In addition to food and water insecurity, the drought has also led to an increase in gender-based violence, particularly affecting women and children.

Limited access to education, as a result of the drought, is further exacerbating the situation, with many children forced to drop out of school to support their families.

The IRC warned that the drought’s continued effects could have long-term consequences on the country’s social and economic development.

Kenyan authorities and humanitarian organizations are calling for support to help address the impacts of drought in the country.

The IRC has said that urgent and decisive action is needed to prevent loss of life and to ensure that those affected have access to the vital support they need to survive.

Communities in the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, are bracing for the worst drought in decades as they prepare for a sixth consecutive dry season. Across the three countries, over 36 million people have been affected.