On 8 September, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster, after findings indicated that 10 out of the country’s 47 counties were seriously affected. Some of the counties are recovering from a recent locust disaster.
Kenyatta ordered government interventions, including water and food distribution, and buying of livestock from farmers. The actions will meet those of churches and other faith groups, which are offering relief at the most local level.
On the ground, the faith groups are providing water for both human and animal consumption, giving out food to the needy and have been educating the communities on long-term coping mechanisms. Since the government’s declaration of the crisis as a national disaster, officials say the groups are preparing to scale up their actions.
Anglican Bishop David Mutisya of Garissa Diocese in the northeastern region said the church was providing drinking water to the people and livestock, in the immediate, and supporting small-scale irrigation as part of the long-term response to the drought.
“We are taking water to the people and giving out water tanks to help with storage,” said Bishop Mutisya, who serves in an area where the people are nomadic pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. “We are also helping the communities create tunnels so that they can tap water from the Tana River to grow food.
According to the bishop, most of the work is being done by women and the church is helping them and other members of the community work as groups for better results. His diocese has many Muslims, but the church is serving all the people.
“When serving the people, we do it for all the communities. We do not differentiate. All are God’s people,” said the bishop. He believes his region is fertile, but water has been the biggest challenge.
Relief agencies say the failure of March and May rainfall caused deterioration of food security in arid and semi-arid counties, thus the current drought. The situation got worse with the start of the dry season in August. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation after measures restricted access to food and nutrition, destroyed household economies and slowed down trade.
Bishop Johnes ole Meliyio of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church said the church is working to support the affected communities in the areas it serves.
“The communities need food and water urgently. The situation is bad and getting worse. It is not showing us the (good) future we are looking for,” said Meliyio. “We are preparing to intervene, but we do not have enough resources to do the work at the moment.”
Jonathan Kapanga, the church’s youth and programs coordinator, said the church had collected data, assessed the severity of the situation and made an appeal. According to the official, the church is disturbed that some communities are walking for more than 15 kilometres to collect water.
“In some areas, there are fears of conflict as pastoralists move their animals into farmlands,” said Kapanga, who works closely with the church’s Diakonia department.