Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Elhadj As Sy has warned that action needed to be taken early to prevent another severe food crisis in Kenya.
In a visit to the East African country to discuss the food security crisis in the region, he noted that the threat of food shortages and hunger loom over families in many areas in Kenya. He is therefore appealing for 8.5 million Swiss francs ($9.25 million) to support Kenya Red Cross Society in providing immediate assistance to meet the critical needs of affected communities, and to take the necessary actions to mitigate the situation before it becomes catastrophic.
“The IFRC, Kenya Red Cross Society and its partners are committed to focusing on early actions and to managing risks through a long-term strengthening community resilience strategy. Responding to a disaster once it occurs is no longer good enough,” he said.
“Early action means ‘different’ and not just ‘earlier’. Risks and threats don’t always have to become disasters, there are ways to prevent and mitigate issues so that they don’t become catastrophic.”
The poor rainfall between March and May – supposed to be the wettest months of the year – has affected the production of food and livestock for many households. The situation has also been worsened by increasing food prices, driven by the increase in fuel costs and general inflation, which continue to erode the purchasing power of individuals and families.
Supporting As Sy’s position, Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society, said: “The Red Cross is in a position now to make a difference – as long as funds are available. As we learned in 2011, without the immediate action to address Kenya’s humanitarian needs and to respond to the warning signs of a crisis in already vulnerable communities, it will lead to tragedy, and we are already very late.”
The Kenya Red Cross will focus its response operations in six priority counties with funds from the appeal.
After the devastating 2011 drought in East Africa, the governments in the region had agreed to take a different approach to put a halt on drought related emergencies, by focusing and investing more in early actions and risk management to prevent these emergencies from becoming large-scale crises.
Three years later, the investments and gains that have been made towards this effort could very well be overturned if action is not taken now to address the current food crisis in Kenya. If the situation becomes more severe, there is significant risk that people who are still in need might not be reached with assistance, and those who have already been engaged and supported, might fall back into a state of crisis.
The Red Cross’ intervention will focus on improving access to safe water – for both human consumption and for livestock – essential health and nutrition services, school feeding programmes, support to livelihood activities such as distribution of seeds in marginal agricultural areas, and the procurement of replanting kits for farmers in previously implemented integrated food security and livelihood projects. Livelihood efforts such as these will help to maximize the opportunity for early planting in the next rainy season.
Since the 2011 drought, the Kenya Red Cross Society and IFRC have been working together closely to steer forward the ‘working differently’ agenda by driving both operational research and advocacy at national and regional levels to invest in early actions.
Governments, regional and international actors must work therefore work together to ensure that the next drought does not turn into another humanitarian crisis. It is now time for all involved to demonstrate concrete action, and it is critical for the Red Cross to gather the support it requires to respond to the needs on the ground and scale up its activities now.