Crisis for 1.6 million in Kenya due to conflict and drought – UN
01 Dec 2010
Source: alertnet // Katy Migiro
NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Conflict and drought will leave at least 1.6 million people in Kenya in crisis in 2011, the United Nation’s humanitarian agency warned on Tuesday.
Civil war in Sudan and Somalia is likely to drive 248,000 refugees into Kenya while poor rains mean at least 1.2 million Kenyans will continue to need food aid, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Kenya said.
OCHA appealed for $526 million to respond to the needs in 2011. Support to refugees and hungry people accounts for 85 percent of the requested funds.
“The population of refugees in Kenya is expected to increase significantly in 2011 largely because of the situation in Somalia but possibly also because of the situation in Sudan, particularly if the referendum there turns violent and displaces a lot of people,” Aeneas Chuma, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator in Kenya said at the appeal launch.
OCHA Kenya expects 4,000 Somalis to arrive in Kenya each month. Tension surrounding the Jan. 9, 2011 referendum on independence for South Sudan is likely to push 20,000 Sudanese into Kenya each month between January and July and an additional 80,000 between July and December, the U.N. estimated.
In October, Kenya hosted 412,493 refugees, mostly in the overcrowded Dadaab camp on the Somali border.
Two good rainy seasons reduced the number of Kenyans dependent on food aid from 3.8 million in early 2010 to 1.2 million in November. But La Nina drought conditions are likely to reverse these gains.
La Nina is a meteorological phenomenon that results in drier than normal conditions in the Horn of Africa. It is the opposite weather anomaly of its more infamous cousin El Nino.
“This may further lead to increased resource-based conflict and high possibility of widespread cholera epidemic. It might also exacerbate the already high malnutrition rates,” Chuma said.
A nationwide assessment will be carried out in February and March to see whether more Kenyans will need food aid because of the poor short rains of October and November 2010.
Anne O’Mahoney of Concern Worldwide said that Kenya was suffering from a “deadly cocktail” of climate change, population growth and the government’s “policy of exclusion” of its most vulnerable people.
These are predominantly pastoralist communities in arid and semi-arid lands, many of whom have drifted to city slums because they can no longer survive as herders. The United Nations estimates that Kenya has 3.5 million “severely food insecure” poor people living in its towns and cities.
In Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands, which make up 80 percent of the country, pastoralists are trapped in a chronic cycle of poverty. Climate change means that the frequency of droughts, followed by floods, is increasing and people do not have time to recover from crises before another one hits.
Pastoralists are now facing a failed rainy season, but their cattle stocks have not yet been replenished since a severe drought in 2009. Pastoralists depend on their cattle for both milk and income.
“Unless there is significant investment made not just by the humanitarian community but by the government in addressing these issues then we are going to be here year after year with the same sort of scenario presented,” O’Mahoney said.
O’Mahoney said donors and government need to build capacity continuously rather than switching the aid tap on and off each time there is a crisis.
This is the first time that OCHA Kenya has prepared a three-year emergency humanitarian response programme (2011 – 2013). However, the request for $526 million in funding is for 2011 alone.
Last year’s appeal was 64 percent funded.