While hunger-related deaths and health complications are on the rise, the government is unable to avert the crisis and aid organisations are asking for help.
At least 10 people have died of hunger in Kenya and about one million are living in desperate conditions as the ongoing severe drought continues to destroy the country's food resources and economy, according to local media accounts.
More than 10 counties, or districts, are affected by the prolonged drought, making it difficult for people to find food and water for themselves as well as pasture for their livestock.
The dry spell has been triggered by lack of rain for the last 12 months since the water tables in affected regions have gone down drastically.
The Kenyan government says the situation is likely to get worse if climate change delays the rainy season.
Pastoralists in counties like Turkana Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, Tana River, Samburu, Kitui and Baringo are the most affected.
The Turkana region of northern Kenya is the worst hit with food stocks running dry for several months and millions of people facing life-threatening starvation.
Some people in Turkana are said to be eating wild fruits to survive. Others have fled to neighbouring countries like South Sudan and Ethiopia in search of food, water and pasture.
Women, the elderly and children are the hardest hit by the drought because of their limited movement.
Kenyan government says it has taken measures to help mitigate the situation by distributing relief food and water to the affected areas.
Last week, Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa led relief aid distribution in Turkana County where more than 200,000 residents are facing a health crisis.
“What we are doing is to make sure that no Kenyan dies because of lack of food or scarcity of water. That is our first action, which is to save lives,” Wamalwa said.
Kenya's Red Cross told TRT World: “Most of the areas affected by the current drought were also affected by the previous droughts that recurred in the arid and semi-arid lands ASAL areas over the last few years. The 2016/17/18 drought affected up to 3.5 million people in the 23 ASAL counties and resulted in severe disruption of livelihoods by affected communities. The drought contributed to underlying vulnerability of communities especially in the ASAL counties which negatively impacted the capacity of populations to cope with recurring disasters.’’
The Red Cross further states that conflicts among communities over grazing land and water are a "key driver of food insecurity".
"Tensions over resources have recently been reported in Turkana county where attacks over cattle and resources are common in periods of drought," the Red Cross statement reads.
Kenya's Red Cross Society has reportedly rolled out cash preparedness actions with financial support from the British Red Cross to "register 25,000 households in eight most affected counties".
"The IFRC and Danish Red Cross have provided financial support that will be used to target 11,200 families across the country. Out of these, 4,000 HHs will be targeted in Turkana county," the statement reads.
Due to the increasingly deteriorating situation, Kenya's Red Cross is in need of more funds to reach "more families, expand the coverage period from one month to four months" and work on other areas that include food security, health and nutrition and sanitation.
Nairobi-based journalist Luke Wasike told TRT World the government has denied any hunger-related deaths even though “residents who have been hard hit are now consuming wild fruits to survive".
He said: "The deputy president says the government has enough food to cater to the affected.”
The catastrophic famine has triggered public anger and the government's inability to contain it has pushed a lot of Kenyans to express their frustrations on social media.
I covered #Turkana famine a few years ago. Turkana people can be self reliant but they're kept poor for business purposes. Relief food supplies is big business in that part of #Kenya. Find pictures l took in Turkana here, the good and the ugly https://t.co/VSNrFGJYBB #Turkana pic.twitter.com/ZMxjvUI7hi— Boniface Mwangi (@bonifacemwangi) March 17, 2019
In 2017, the Kenyan government declared a drought that affected 23 counties a national disaster. Nearly 2.7 million people were estimated to be in need of food aid, representing approximately 20 percent of the population in pastoral areas and 18 percent in marginal agricultural areas. The government also appealed for foreign aid back then.
Last year a local governor of a drought-hit county in North eastern Kenya appealed for humanitarian aid from Turkish institutions during his visit to Turkey.
Governor Ali Korane was in Istanbul to hold talks with Turkish officials and also raise some funds for Garissa county, which borders Somalia.
“We look forward to a lot of support from the Turkish institutions and Turkish authorities, and we appeal to them to come to support your brothers and sisters in Garissa,” Korane told Anadolu Agency.
Garissa hosts one of the world’s largest refugee complexes, Dadaab, established by the UN in 1991 following the Somali Civil War and drought and famine that forced thousands to flee the Horn of Africa nation.