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Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

CRS Kenya drought emergency response: Rapid Assistance Program (RAP)1

Working document

Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

October 2006

SARPN Regional Workshop on Cash Transfer Activities in southern Africa.
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In 2005, Kenya faced the worst drought in 50 years. Twenty seven out of 72 districts in arid and semiarid lands (ASAL) were affected and are still facing significant humanitarian and livelihood threats. According to the FEWSNET food security update of January 2006, the failure of the 2005 October to December short-rains season followed three to six successive poor seasons.2 Kenya experiences mild cyclical drought conditions approximately every three to five years, with more severe dry periods on a roughly ten-year cycle.3 Since 2003, successive poor rainy seasons have limited the ability of households in the ASAL - especially the poorest - to recover lost assets and expand coping mechanisms. This has increased vulnerability across a vast area of Kenya from the pastoral North to the Southern rangelands, and from the marginal agricultural areas of Eastern Province and parts of Coast Province. This situation prompted the President of the Republic of Kenya to make an appeal in December 2005 for both local and international support for people living in the drought affected districts.

In December 2005, WFP predicted up to 2.5 million people (ten percent of the Kenyan population) would be under serious stress with global acute child malnutrition ranging from 18 to 30 percent in the arid north and eastern areas of the country. On the other hand, the Government of Kenya (GoK) estimated the number of people requiring food aid to be 3.5 million including 500,000 school children. The food aid pipeline was severely stretched, and the GoK required support4. Nonetheless, an assessment of national commodity balance sheets for staple foods in Kenya demonstrated that food security problems largely resulted from problems in food access, as opposed to availability. In fact, the 2005 maize crop yield data presents an increase over previous years, indicating that the food insecurity problem being experienced was one of access rather than availability.

In response to the GoK appeal, CRS/Kenya undertook a series of firsthand Drought Rapid Assessments in nine districts of the country namely; Kilifi, Tana River, Marsabit, Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Machakos, Mbeere and Tharaka. These assessments were conducted through desk review, discussions with the GoK and other actors, and CRS partners in the affected districts. According to CRS/Kenya emergency assessments in the marginal agricultural areas, the crops planted in October 2005 wilted at knee height or suffered severe moisture stress leading to near total crop failure.5 Results of a Rapid Market Assessment at the same time showed that prices for beans, rice and maize were increasing. Compared to the same time in 2005, prices had increased by an average of 35 percent for some commodities. In all the districts, over 90 percent of the households reported depleted food stocks from the previous season's harvest.

The CRS/Kenya rapid emergency assessments found that over 90 percent of households in all the assessed districts reduced consumption from two to three meals per day to one small meal per day as a copping mechanism.4 Meals were mainly comprised of boiled maize, and thus did not provide adequate nutrients required for supporting daily normal body caloric and nutrient needs. With the increasing food deficits at the household level, vulnerable groups including women and children fail to meet their additional caloric and nutrient needs. Women reported that when their households run out of food, children are given priority to eat, then the sick, elderly, fathers and mothers last.4

Despite a lack of adequate operational nutrition surveillance systems for the affected districts, available data and field visits indicated an increasing number of underweight and wasting children. In the more severely drought affected communities, malnutrition levels ranged between 30 and 49 percent,6 while the moderately affected areas had levels ranging between 15 and 21 percent.7 These malnutrition levels are well above the WHO Global Acute malnutrition threshold of 15 percent.8 Ministry of Health (MoH) health records data indicated that incidence of acute upper respiratory infections in children was increasing9 while women in rural health facilities were experiencing more complications both in pregnancy and in delivery.10 In addition, anemia was reported to be highly prevalent in lactating and pregnant women.

In response to persistent drought conditions across much of Kenya, CRS/Kenya developed the Kenya Drought Emergency Response (K-DER) with the goal of protecting and enhancing livelihoods in drought-affected communities. K-DER long-term relief and recovery interventions focuses on Food and Nutrition (SO1), Water and Sanitation (Watsan) (SO2) and Livelihoods and Agriculture (SO3). Through KDER, CRS/Kenya supports the restoration of livelihoods and increased resiliency in drought-affected communities. Demand subsidies for seeds and other agricultural inputs along with technical assistance regarding appropriate seed selection for drought-prone areasare in the pipeline for the most important planting season (October 2006). This activity targets four divisions in Kitui and Makueni districts of Eastern province. As an interim measure, CRS supported communities in developing community investment plans (CIPs) for improving natural resource management through the construction of soil and water conservation structures. CRS will facilitate the communities in implementing the CIPs through voucher for work schemes to extend support during this interim period (June - October 2006).

As stated earlier, the 2005 short rains season crop failed in the marginal agricultural areas of eastern Kenya including Kitui and Makueni districts and this led to a rapid onset of acute food insecurity. Consequently, CRS/Kenya decided to augment the K-DER program with a Rapid Assistance Program (RAP). The RAP component of K-DER program was designed to meet immediate needs of targeted droughts-affected communities in Kitui and Makueni. The RAP also provided contingency planning for support to general populations over the critical four-month period following the failure of the short rains harvest in March 2006. This program supports K-DER SO I on food and nutrition that states - "Nutritional status of populations in targeted drought affected communities is improved." It commenced in June 2006 after a delay of about three months and implemented for a period of five months from start-up.

  1. Contributions made by; Johnson Irungu, CRS/Kenya Email: ; Hanna Dagnachew, Director Basic Needs CRS/Kenya Email:; Tom Oywa of CRS/Kenya; David Rinck of CRS/EARO and; Johan Razafiarison of CRS/Madagascar.
  2. "Kenya Food Security Update" FEWSNET, 4 Jan 2006
  3. "Kenya Long Rains Assessment Report 2005", Kenya Food Security Steering Group, Aug 2005
  4. "Kenya Monthly Food Security Updates" Kenya Metrological Department and WFP press releases
  5. "Kenya Drought Emergency Rapid Assessment Report - Machakos, Makueni, Mwingi and Kitui districts" CRS/Kenya, January 2006
  6. "Growth Monitoring Records - Maikona Child Health Project" Christian Children's Fund
  7. "CHANIS Summary Sheets" Makueni and Mwingi Districts, 2005 and "Child Survival Growth Monitoring Records" Plan International - Kilifi district
  8. "CHANIS Records" Kargi and Maikona dispensaries
  9. "Kenya Drought Emergency Rapid Assessment Report - Marsabit District" CRS/Kenya, January 2006
  10. Nurse-In charge Kargi Dispensary (interview with the authors)

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