UN humanitarian officials urge attention to Kenya’s drought

Turkana, Kenya (AP) — A senior United Nations humanitarian official expressed concern about starvation in remote northern Kenya and called on the international community to devote more resources to tackling the drought crisis in the wider region.

Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said he saw families in Kenya’s Turkana region left with nothing after their animals starved to death. Turkana is the epicenter of a drought affecting parts of the East African country.

“The world’s attention is elsewhere, and we know that,” Griffith said Thursday during a visit to the region. “And the world’s misery has not left Turkana, the world’s rain has not come to Turkana, and we have seen four consecutive rain failures.”

Griffiths and other humanitarian representatives visited a pastoral community in Turkana’s Lomuputh region in an effort to draw attention to the humanitarian challenges posed by the drought.

“Lomoputh deserves our attention,” Griffith said, noting that kids looking for fruit to eat need help “to have any chance of surviving the next day.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared drought a national disaster in September 2021.

Some residents of Lomoputh told The Associated Press that they desperately needed food aid.

“I didn’t get any help, the kid hasn’t eaten anything since yesterday,” said Jacinta Maruk, a mother of five. “That’s the main problem.”

Extreme drought in Kenya has affected 3.5 million people with severe food insecurity and acute malnutrition, exacerbating factors that cause people to go hungry.

The United Nations warned earlier this year that an estimated 13 million people face acute hunger in the wider Horn of Africa due to persistent drought conditions. Malnutrition rates are high in the region, and drought conditions are affecting pastoral and farming communities.

Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya face their driest conditions since 1981, the UN World Food Programme reported in February.

Somalia is seen as particularly vulnerable. In 2011, when the United Nations declared famine in parts of the country, some 250,000 people there died of starvation. Half of them are children.

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