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Floods, locusts put thousands at risk of hunger

Thursday May 14 2020

floods

Families stay in makeshift tents by the roadside at Kamaluanga Ruambwa in Siaya County on May 10, 2020 following floods. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BERNADINE MUTANU
By BERNADINE MUTANU
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When it rains, it pours. This statement couldn’t be truer in Kenya currently.

In the past few weeks, the unrelenting downpour in many parts of the country has left thousands of people displaced and hungry.

According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, some 25,000 households (around 150,000 people) have been displaced by the current floods.

The most affected are those around the Lake Victoria Basin, the lower River Tana Basin and along River Tana, from Garissa to Hola.

Red Cross notes that 36 out 47 counties have been affected by floods. “Coming at the heels of another flood, in the midst of a locust invasion and the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact is going to be widespread,” Mr Elijah Muli, the Head of Disaster Management at Red Cross, told the Nation.

Before the onset of last year’s October-December rain season, there was a drought that left at least 2.5 million people in need of food aid.

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Flooding later affected more than 393,000 individuals according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to Mr Muli, there are 19 counties that are currently flooded and have also been invaded by locusts.

“All these people have depleted food reserves. The situation is bleak because they have not had the opportunity to engage in productive activities since last year and right now their farms are flooded,” he said.

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He added: “This is in addition to the restrictions imposed by the government in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus, which have left thousands jobless and without the means to put food on the table”.

Mr Muli revealed that pastoralists in the upper eastern and northeastern region have lost more than 15,000 heads of cattle in the floods.

However, Agriculture Principal Secretary Hamadi Boga said the volume of maize destroyed will not affect the overall production, but food safety at the household level will be affected.

“We usually harvest three million metric tonnes of maize annually, so the 13,000 tonnes that have been destroyed are not much compared to the amount harvested. But there is need to introduce some programmes to cushion people at the household level,” he added.

Other crops destroyed include sorghum, millet, cassava, potatoes, beans and vegetables.

Food and Agriculture Organisation has said the country will need to import food due to poor harvests in 2019 and low national stocks.

Prof Boga said the government has allowed traders to import four million bags of maize (two million bags each of white and yellow maize) to cover the shortfall.

The government, private sector and non-governmental organisations have started social protection programmes to cushion the vulnerable.