Fighting the impacts of drought in Kenya | ActionAid UK

Makena Mwobobia

Head of Programmes, ActionAid Kenya

More than 3 million people in Kenya are impacted by the drought across East Africa, with the worst affected living in the arid and semi-arid lands across the country. The rains have been depressed over the past year and pastoralists are very badly impacted, their livelihoods destroyed and their families suffering. FIfteeen of the 23 arid and semi-arid counties are now in the emergency category. The priority now is to save lives and livelihoods.

Cecilia and Angelie carry jerry cans back from a watering hole to their village.
Cecilia and Angelie carry jerry cans back from a watering hole to their village.

Food has become more expensive due to the drought

There is no food in the markets and where food is available it is no longer affordable. One kilo of maize used to cost 20 Kenyan shillings but now it's 50 Kenyan shillings. Finding food and accessing potable water and pasture is a huge challenge to communities.

Livestock has died and animals are sick and weak. The value of livestock has gone down in the market and there is no longer the same demand as there was because the drought has impacted business. Water sources have started drying up which is creating anxiety and impacting heavily on lives, especially women’s lives and their safety.

The walk to the water hole from the village in Isiolo is along a dried-up riverbed.

Women fear sexual attacks as they search for water

Women are having to trek longer distances to find water, in many cases walking on average nine kilometres or more to find water. Women have said they feel vulnerable to being targeted in sexual attacks. They have also told us that they are no longer going into the forest to collect firewood because they fear sexual attacks. We have heard from women that they are being told if they offer sex they will be able to access the forest for firewood.

Many women are now left to take care of themselves, their children and the elderly. The men have migrated to find pasture and water for the livestock. This makes women vulnerable. There are many protection issues and this drought is impacting the way of life and the family structures.

We have heard from women that they are being told if they offer sex they will be able to access the forest for firewood.

There is pressure on these families and where there are children attending school, girls are being taken out of school to support their mothers and family members.

8-month-old Rose has not met her dad, who had to move away with the family's cattle to find water and pasture after two cattle died of starvation. Her mum and four siblings go without food 1-2 days a week.

When a girl is removed from school it will impact her entire life as she may as she may not have the opportunity of returning to school again. Some early marriages have been reported in some caes. This is just one consequence of the drought on girls. Child labour is increasing as children are forced to look for work to help their families.

People are becoming weaker - especially children

Malnutrition levels are increasing – families have exhausted all their coping mechanisms and there is less and less food available. The hunger is visible and the people are becoming weaker, especially the children. Elderly women are also particularly vulnerable because they are often overlooked in emergencies and can become isolated.

ActionAid puts women at the heart of the response

ActionAid believes that we need address the immediate concerns but also to focus on long-term solutions, and women must be at the heart of the humanitarian response. We work with women's groups and community-led disaster committees to ensure the most vulnerable in the communities receive assistance, and the affected communities participate in the response.

When women are at the centre of the response there is a shift in power in processes and decision making. We have also found there is also greater accountability and transparency.

We work with women's groups and community-led disaster committees to ensure the most vulnerable in the communities receive assistance.

We work along with women and citizens' forums for integrating accountability in the processes. ActionAid is committed to working in an accountable and transparent way that reflects and meets the needs of communities.

Cecilia collecting food from Action Aid field staff at the food distribution centre in Kambi Ya Juu.

When women are at the centre of the response there is a shift in power in processes and decision making. 

To date in Kenya we have:

  • carried out urgent rehabilitation of water sources so communities can access immediately potable water
  • provided food for vulnerable households
  • provided school feeding programmes for 46 schools
  • reached 98,000 individuals

We hope to reach 179,467 people in total.

Donate now to help us reach more people with urgent supplies

DEC logo

Photo credits: Alice Oldenburg/ActionAid.