Caritas Kenya shares in the mission of the Catholic Church to serve communities in need and promote justice. During disasters such as drought, floods and disease epidemics, The Caritas Network in Kenya, in collaboration with partners, intervenes to cushion the affected population from the effects of these disasters.
In the recent past, Kenya has experienced severe droughts which have led to major food crises in most parts of the country. In 2011, drought affected 13.3 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia ((Mwangi E… 2012). The results of drought in Kenya have been poor water supply to rural and urban areas, prevalence of water-borne diseases, crop failures, livestock deaths, deterioration of human health due to malnutrition, resource-based conflicts over water and pasture, and reduced hydropower generation which lead to frequent power cuts. The effects of drought are far reaching because Kenya depends on rain-fed Agriculture for its social and economic development. In addition, the main source of water for human consumption is rainfall (UNW- Report 2014).
On February 10th 2017, the Government of Kenya declared drought a national disaster. Different actors, including Caritas Organisations complemented efforts of the government by initiating and implementing emergency response efforts.
In 2018, Caritas Kenya received support from Caritas Espanola and accompanied Diocesan Caritas in the implementation of the “Improvement of the situation of drought affected communities” in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) Dioceses of Maralal, Marsabit and Isiolo. The one-year project addressed food insecurity and water shortage in 3,485 households. Resource-based conflicts triggered by the drought conditions, were addressed through peace initiatives such as community dialogues and inter-county meetings.
In the Catholic Diocese of Marsabit, Caritas Marsabit supported 500 families through the provision of rice, beans, vegetable oil, milk and sugar. In Maralal and Marsabit Dioceses, 835 families received food vouchers worth 30 dollars per household. This cushioned target communities from hunger and under-nutrition.
Distribution of unimix at Illeret in Marsabit Diocese. Photo Credits: Caritas Marsabit.
In the Catholic Diocese of Isiolo, pastoralist communities from Garbatulla and Kinna wards were affected by resource-based conflicts over water and pasture during the drought emergency. Caritas Isiolo convened stakeholder meetings to discuss strategies of sharing resources amicably. The meetings brought together actors from the Government, grazing committees, community elders, religious leaders from the Christian and Muslim faith and Women and youth leaders. The actors mapped conflict hotspots and resolved to share resources amicably. As a result, different ethnic communities are sharing water from Taibotu borehole. Caritas Isiolo further addressed the water shortage through provision of water reservoir tanks in the Kipsing area of Isiolo Diocese.
In Lodungokwe parish at the Catholic Diocese of Maralal, Caritas Maralal rehabilitated a borehole that is currently serving 650 households, one primary school and one secondary school. Communities in Lodungokwe town are now accessing water from the Lodungokwe borehole through a piping and pumping system that is 5kms away from the source. (Photo Credits: Caritas Maralal). Hygiene trainings were also conducted in the three dioceses to increase awareness on basic hygiene practices such as hand washing and waste management.
According to the Government of Kenya’s Post Disaster Needs Assessment, the most affected sectors of the economy are livestock amongst pastoralist communities, crop farming and Water. The drought impact leads to poverty due to depressed purchasing power of the affected communities. The lack of food due to crop failure and low milk production increases vulnerability to starvation and disrupts traditional coping mechanisms. After severe drought, heavy rains tend to follow with an intensity that leads to flooding and spread of water borne diseases.
Following this emergency response project, Caritas Kenya is working with Caritas Spain and the three diocesan Caritas to prepare for a drought recovery phase. This phase will work towards addressing long term food security needs amongst target communities in the three Dioceses. Caritas will also promote emerging livelihood systems such as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) to facilitate access to financial services for communities who do not have access to formal financial services.
The Drought Emergency Response Project is a one-year project funded by Caritas Espanola and Implemented by Caritas Kenya through Diocesan Caritas in Maralal, Marsabit and Isiolo.