Why we always scramble to fight drought

Saturday March 23 2019


Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary-General Abbas Gullet, on March 21, 2019 at The Boma Hotel, announces an appeal for food aid for people facing hunger in 17 counties. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Imagine you are a resident of Turkana County who has been starving, only to find out that your country has had enough to feed you all along!

The excuse for the delay in getting the food to you? Well, the county had not sought intervention from the national government to help tackle the drought.

That’s not all, the National Disaster Management Authority gave your county inaccurate predictions on the drought, leading to the limited action by the county government.

And here lies the nub of the matter. We cannot devolve everything! Despite devolution being six years old, it’s quite evident the counties most affected by drought are unfortunately incapable of managing it.

The national government always ends up stepping in to salvage the starving counties, sometimes too late — if they haven’t lost their loved ones, they have lost their livelihood which they perpetually rebuild with every drought cycle.


What then is the point of delaying food deliveries until it is called upon by the counties? It defeats logic!

As soon as the National Disaster Management Authority issues early warnings of a drought, it is prudent for the national government to act and deliver food to the affected counties.

If drought management is centralised, data from the NDMA must also be accurate for the most effective course of action to be taken.

The idea that the wrong data costs lives that is now being denied or is holding children at the brink of death should result in some accountability.

It doesn’t have to come to the point of the media reporting of malnourished children drinking muddy water for it to be an awakening that there was a higher risk of the drought getting worse.

More pertinent, when the data was found to be defective, what course of action did the NDMA take?


It is quite clear it was left to the counties to sort themselves out, and there is no recourse for the NDMA other than ‘reassuring’ the starving not to panic. How does a starving child fail to panic if they feel lifeless?

While we have to allow a margin of error with weather predictions, it’s difficult to argue with years of the drought pattern. We know every two to three years a drought hits the arid and semi arid areas.

In tandem, the Meteorological Department periodically issues early warnings that rains might fail leading to drought.

The excuse that locusts would have worsened the drought doesn’t wash, given that we have had locusts before. Where was the contingency plan to mitigate the loss of crops?


Cattle rustlers inhibiting access to food is not a limitation to Article 43 of the Constitution, ‘to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality’, either. We have known of cattle rustlers for years.

Hard as it may be to comprehend, it’s difficult not to conclude the current drought has been exacerbated by human action or lack thereof.

As we mark the World Meteorological Day on Saturday, trite as it may be, climate predictions give us early warning signs for us to be weather-ready, water-smart and to manage disaster risks.

Next time let’s pay closer and immediate attention nationally.

The writer focuses on children’s issues; [email protected]