Close to three million people are facing starvation as the country grapples with the dim forecasts of severe food shortages by mid-year.
The shortage could get worse because of the poor harvests recorded last season, Special programmes permanent secretary Mohammed Ali warned. This could also push up the cost of basic food items.
Preliminary ministry reports indicate severe famine in various parts of the country. “We are going to experience an acute food shortage by mid this year,” Mr Ali told the Nation in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Among the hardest hit are Coast, arid and semi-arid areas as well as some parts of Eastern Province.
Turkana, Mandera, Samburu, Baringo, Marsabit, Wajir, Moyale and Garissa districts are among those to be severely affected as will Isiolo, Laikipia, Ijara, Taita Taveta, Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Mbeere, Malindi, Kilifi, Kwale and Tana River districts.
According to Mr Ali, the food security situation in these districts has reached “acute food and livelihood crisis level” and can reach emergency levels if the rains do not fall on time.
The situation in the other districts has been categorised as “Borderline Food Insecurity” and is close to reaching acute food and livelihood crisis level.
Mr Ali said the affected areas were already experiencing food and water shortages, high levels of malnutrition and decline in pasture for livestock.
“We are currently doing an assessment on the affected areas and, in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP), we are feeding more than 1.4 million people with relief food,” he said.
But this number is expected to double by June. Another 230,000 people, who were displaced by the post-election violence, are also in need of relief food.
Already food shortages have been experienced in Coast with the provincial commissioner, Mr Ernest Munyi sending early warnings on persistent food shortages in the region.
Mr Munyi said the food shortage was likely to persist. The Government was monitoring the situation and assisting those affected, he said. In Eastern Province, 200,000 people in the greater Meru North region are at risk of starvation due to crop failure for three seasons in a row.
Crops withered before maturity and hardly any food crops would be harvested, according to Meru Catholic diocese development coordinator Joseph M’Eruaki.
The most affected are Igembe North, Tigania East and Tigania West districts. Many of the residents have been relying on relief food supplied through the Catholic relief agency.
In Baringo District, the situation could get worse this year as most farms were uncultivated last year. District agricultural officer Dan Guda said the situation needed to be addressed quickly.
“Food security in the vast Baringo is very poor,” he said by telephone. “Things are not going to be good as there was a major reduction of almost 70 per cent of acreage of maize last season.”
He attributed the reduction to poor rains. Mr Ali asked Kenyans to change their feeding habits and stop over relying on maize meal as their staple food. He also urged farmers to increase the diversity of the crops they grow.