The World Food Programme reckons that Kenya is not experiencing famine.
But the agency has declared famine in Somalia catastrophic saying it requires Sh52.2 billion for effective intervention to secure more than three million people facing starvation.
According to the WFP, Kenya is facing “emergency food shortage” and high commodity prices which have gone up by 70 percent and 240 percent in Somalia.
The emergency in Kenya was caused by drought.
Drought, a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, can also result in famine.
But can the Kenyan situation be described as famine?
The WFP says drought is extreme, widespread scarcity that may lead to malnutrition and death through starvation.
For a condition of emergency food shortage to be classified as famine, it must be widespread and dire.
A WFP top relief official said on Monday that although the number of Kenyans in need of emergency food aid is continuing to grow, the country is not facing the threat of famine “at this moment.”
Ms Valerie Amos, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, however said there was famine in southern Somalia has led to the influx of refugees to Kenya.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) describes the situation in Northern Kenya pastoral areas as a “food security emergency.”
The network says the next short rains are expected to begin at the end of October and food insecurity will likely deepen in the absence unless there is urgent intervention.
Besides natural causes such as rain failure, famine can be as a result of political and economic factors such as war.
Famine may also occur in a situation where food is available in the markets but at prices are too high for those in need. This was the case in the Welo Province famine of Ethiopia (1972–4), where food was available in the markets but at unaffordable rates.
According to the Fewsnet 3.5 million Kenyans suffer from food insecurity, an estimated 1.2 million people are at Emergency level and are unable to meet basic needs. An additional 2.0 million pastoralists and marginal agricultural farmers are in Crisis category while 300,000 people are Stressed.
Those in the Stress level are in better condition compared to those in Crisis and Emergency levels in order of severity.
The network blames declining pastoral food insecurity on a combination of depletion of grazing resources, death of livestock, high food prices and poor interventions.
Parts of the southeastern lowlands classified as emergency include the northern parts of Mwingi and Kitui districts that have experienced a succession of three poor seasons, which caused crop failure and poor household food stocks amidst record food prices.
An influx of livestock from neighbouring pastoral districts has undermined household food security by causing displacement of households and loss of livelihood productivities.