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Agency says 10 counties in grip of biting drought




Agency says 10 counties in grip of biting drought

Women fetch water in Magarini, Kilifi, during a dry season in February last year. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT  

Drought is worsening in 10 counties, officials have warned, raising fears of a humanitarian situation ahead of long rains.

The National Disaster Management Authority says Mandera, West Pokot, Kilifi, Laikipia, Nyeri, Garissa, Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Isiolo, Kitui and Wajir are in the grip of drought, adding that quick measures need to be taken to counter the effects of dry weather.

“More counties have moved into the alert drought stage, from seven in December to nine in January.

“Twelve counties reported a worsening trend while others are stable,” says the agency in its January report.

The off-season rainfall received in a few counties at the beginning of January, the agency says, was largely insufficient and poorly distributed.

“Preparation of sector response plans should start in the affected counties to facilitate early drought response,” added the report.

The agency notes that pasture condition declined in January due to poor forage regeneration occasioned by depressed rainfall during the October to December rainy season as well as the sunny, dry and hot weather conditions that prevailed in January.

During January, the distance covered by households in search of water increased compared to December.

“The average distances to water sources for households and livestock increased compared to December across ASAL (arid and semi-arid lands) counties.

“Distances are expected to further increase due to the prevailing dry weather conditions,” said the State agency.

During the month, higher-than-average daytime temperatures were recorded over the entire ASAL region, which led to high rate of evaporation, causing rapid drying up of dams, water pans, and moisture stress and wilting of pasture and crops.

The agency has warned that the livestock body condition is expected to deteriorate in the coming two months given that pasture availability is likely to diminish and trekking distances to water sources increase.

The current condition, according to the agency, ranges from good to fair.

The forecast for February indicates that nearly all arid and semi-arid counties are expected to be sunny and dry for most of the month.

“There is also an increased likelihood for hotter-than-normal temperatures in February, which could result in high evapotranspiration rates and faster than normal drying up of pasture and open water sources,” the report says.