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4.4M Kenyans facing food crisis– 43% increase from last year

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By George Munene

In the current period, February 2023, it is estimated that around 4.4 million Kenyans (27% of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) population) are facing high levels of Acute Food Insecurity (AFI) Crisis or above. A 43 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), though the short rain February harvest season has seen a slight decrease in the severity of food insecurity about 774,000 people are in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). 

Parts of Marsabit (Laisamis) and Turkana South and other areas, like North Turkana, Wajir, and North Horr are projected to reach Extremely Critical levels of acute malnutrition.

The severity of food insecurity is expected to worsen further between March – June 2023. 5.4 million people (32% of the population analysed) are projected to face high levels of acute food insecurity with 1.2 million people (7%) likely in Emergency.

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According to IPC, the latest projection represents the highest magnitude and severity of acute food insecurity in the ASAL areas in years with urgent action required to reduce food gaps, protect livelihoods, and prevent and treat acute malnutrition.

The severe food insecurity situation is primarily driven by a combination of shocks, including a fifth successive below-average poorly distributed, and short-lived rainy season,  resulting in below-average crop production, poor livestock conditions, and higher exposure to livestock disease.

Food commodity prices have skyrocketed while the purchasing power of most vulnerable households continues to decrease. 

Seven counties out of the 23 analysed, predominantly characterised by pastoral livelihoods, are the most affected, representing 45 per cent or higher of their total population in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) or above: Samburu (45%), Tana River (45%), Turkana (50%), Garissa (55%), Mandera (55%), Marsabit (55%), Wajir (55%). 

Climatic and economic shocks were compounded by the conflict witnessed over most parts of the country, particularly in Turkana, Marsabit, Baringo, Laikipia, and West Pokot, where human fatalities occurred, in addition to the loss of livelihoods and herds.

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Acute malnutrition across the ASAL counties has significantly deteriorated compared to last year during the same period: Laisamis in Marsabit County and Turkana South was classified in Extremely Critical levels of Acute Malnutrition.

Samburu, Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo, Turkana West, Turkana Central, Turkana North, Tiaty Sub-County in Baringo, North Horr, and Moyale sub-counties in Marsabit County are in a Critical situation, while West Pokot, Laikipia, Tana River, and Wajir are in Serious phase.

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