Cablegate: Current Drought Condition in Kenya Make

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. In recent days, the Kenyan press has been
dominated by alarmist stories of the country?s
worsening famine situation in certain regions.
Photographs of starving children and adults, as well
as dead and dying livestock, along with headlines
such as, ?Starvation at Christmas,? have raised the
consciousness and immediacy of Kenya?s long-standing
and well-documented food crisis. Poor and
intermittent short-rains in Kenya?s most arid and
semi arid areas are exacerbating the food crisis,
particularly in the eastern and northern pastoral
districts. The extended dry spell and the ensuing
lack of pasture and water have culminated in
livestock mortalities, acute malnutrition and
reportedly some loss of life in several pastoral

2. Relief assistance is being provided to
affected households through the ongoing WFP/GOK
Emergency Operation (EMOP). However, a persistent
dry spell and a severe shortage of water, pasture and
browse in pastoral areas and crop failures in parts
of southeast and the coast are likely to result in
increased vulnerability and, therefore, an additional
need for relief assistance. The GOK has been much
criticized in the media for its lack of planning
despite many public assessments of such food, water,
and pasture shortages if, as happened, normal rains
did not come to the affected areas. End summary.


3. A drought emergency was declared by the
Government of Kenya (GOK) in July 2004. Following an
international appeal, more than 1.2 million Kenyans
are receiving food and other assistance to lessen the
humanitarian impact. Although the 2005 long-rains
(March-June) improved agricultural production and
pastoral conditions in several regions, the
northeastern districts of Wajir, Mandera and parts of
Marsabit received almost no ?short rains?(October-
December)and were recently assessed as slow to
recover. The districts are mostly comprised of
pastoralists that rely on livestock production for
food security and livelihood.

4. UNICEF conducted a nutritional assessment
in Garissa, Wajir and Mandera from October 6-20 to
determine levels of malnutrition in children less
than five years. The survey indicated alarmingly
high malnutrition levels in the areas. For instance,
in Wajir, Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) was
reported to be 29.8 percent, much higher than the 15
percent emergency threshold. (Reftel- Nairobi 05074)

5. The short-rains season contributes close to 70
percent of the farm output in the marginal
agricultural or southeast and coastal lowlands of
Kenya. Similarly, the eastern and northern
pastoralists rely on rains for water, pasture and
browse for their livestock.

6. In contrast, the long-rains maize harvest in
Nyanza and Rift Valley Provinces was estimated at 10
percent above the long-term average. As a result,
the December price for maize in these areas was 30-35
percent lower than in 2004. The decline in price is
negatively affecting household income. Already,
aggrieved farmers are petitioning the government to
support prices, ostensibly by raising the buying
price offered by the National Cereal Produce Board
(NCPB). A number of factors including lack of
purchasing power, inadequate roads and trade
infrastructure, and market inefficiencies explain the
paradoxical scenario of food shortage in the midst of
abundant supply.

Current Situation

7. The 2005 short-rains season failed in most
drought prone pastoral and marginal agricultural
areas. This same weather pattern is also affecting
parts of Somalia. In particular, rains have been
poor and intermittent in the eastern and northern
pastoral districts including Mandera, Wajir, and
parts of Marsabit. According to the Arid Lands and
Resource Management Project (ALRMP), in Mandera and
Wajir districts, less than 40 percent of the areas
received showers; the rest remained extremely dry.
As a result, pastoralists and livestock must trek up
to 20 miles or more in search of water, pasture and
browse, and in the process, livestock have weakened.
Reports indicate that due to the scarcity of water
and increased clustering around water points, the
frequency of borehole breakdown has escalated in most
eastern and northern pastoral districts. There have
been a number of reports of livestock herds
?invading? private ranches and nature reserves in
search of adequate water and grazing land.

8. Livestock deaths have also been reported in
areas where rains are relatively more favorable,
mainly due to the inability of the emaciated animals
to withstand sudden lowering of temperature.
Reportedly, most of the animals are now kidding and
calving, hence, their increased vulnerability.
Increased miscarriages have also been reported due to
the weakened livestock body conditions.

9. The average livestock price has declined by
margins ranging from 8-10 percent for cattle and
about 5 percent for the small ruminants. Persistent
decline in prices will, undoubtedly, have detrimental
effects on the already fragile pastoral livelihood,
exacerbating poor household food security.

10. Owing to the above scenario, the need for
emergency food and non-food assistance is expected to
expand from current beneficiary numbers of 1.2
million up to 2.5 million. A multi-agency food
security assessment covering 22 drought-affected
districts is scheduled to begin in early January.
The assessment results, expected to be available in
mid-February, will reveal details on the magnitude of
the crisis and required interventions.

11. Press reports have been alarmist and often
inaccurate. But the photos and stories of suffering
and death are real enough to require a personal
response from President Kibaki, who traveled to
Northeastern province on December 27. Despite
repeated government claims that this is an act of
nature, and there is ?no fault? to be attributed,
many editorials and commentators have placed the
blame squarely on the GOK?s lack of preparedness and
misplaced priorities.

Response to Date

12. Donors, the United Nations and NGOs have been
responding to emergency conditions in Kenya since the
GOK's original drought appeal in July 2004. The
World Food Program (WFP) is currently distributing a
full basket of maize, pulses and vegetable oil to
approximately 1.1 million beneficiaries in 17
districts, in addition to the expanded school feeding
program covering 200,000 school children.

13. USAID contributes approximately thirty five
percent of WFP drought emergency commodities. An
additional pledge of 12,000MT of wheat is being
considered to be swapped with local maize for
immediate relief distribution. USAID?s Office of
Foreign Disaster Assistance provided over US$ 1
million in October to support water and agricultural
activities in eastern and northeastern provinces.

14. USAID/Kenya Relief Coordinator,
USAID/OFDA Regional Advisor and FFP/REDSO
representative are scheduled to visit northeastern,
eastern and other drought-affected areas during the
first two weeks of January.

15. There have been credible reports of the GOK
distributing food out side of the EMOP in an attempt
to encourage a positive response to the November 21
constitutional referendum. (The referendum failed.)
Now the government is renewing its efforts to get
food to highly impacted areas, and has enlisted the
military?s help. The GOK has doubled its in-kind
contribution to 10,000 MT of maize. Other
contributions include US$1.27 million from the
Swedish Government to fund associated costs of the
GOK?s in-kind contribution; Euro 2.25 million from
ECHO for water/nutrition/protection activities in
Mandera. DFID is considering a GBP 1.2 million to
support nutrition program in Mandera, Wajir and
Marsabit districts. Additional pledges are needed to
meet the current pipeline gap of approximately 27,000
MT, as well to address the imminently large-scale
relief needs beyond February 2006.

- -----------

16. In many communities in Eastern, Northeastern,
and Coast Provinces, the current situation is dire
and deadly. Yet, the situation is not unanticipated.
Most of these areas are covered under the on-going
emergency operation, and it was widely known that
poor short-rains could trigger a large-scale crisis.
Despite the regularity of such crises in recent
years, the GOK still has not put in place an
effective system for getting assistance to these
economically and politically marginalized areas.

17. Inevitably, the drought condition described
above as well as farmers? inability to generate
sufficient incomes will have negative implications
for household food security. In addition, the
substantial livestock mortalities suggest that even
if the season improves, the pastoral livelihood will
take a much longer time to recover, implying growing
chronic food insecurity.
18. This situation calls for a more proactive
engagement from the GOK to address the root causes of
such extreme vulnerability. Although the crisis is
often triggered by unfavorable weather, the real
predicament is rooted in the massive underdevelopment
which characterizes eastern and northeastern
pastoralist areas. Hence, it is high time that the
GOK critically re-examines its development strategy
in these chronically food insecure areas. Likewise,
on-going and future development assistance should
increasingly find ways to alleviate the problem. An
increasingly important part of the puzzle is getting
pastoralist population to diversify their livelihoods
while developing new local and international markets
for their animals, within the limits of the land?s
carrying capacity. Selling emaciated livestock to
the government as a last resort to stave off
starvation is not an economic model to perpetuate.

19. Nevertheless, continued emergency
assistance to the worst-affected households will be
necessary to avoid a catastrophic situation and
prevent further loss of livelihood. Specific food and
non-food requirements will be detailed in future
cables, as additional information becomes available.
Post is also in discussion with the World Food
Program with respect to joint planning for Kenya and



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