Kenya: One year on, resilience takes centre stage

25 Jul 2012

Women, children and donkeys on the arid plains at the feet of the Mogila mountains in Turkana, northern Kenya. Credit: IRIN/Gwenn Dubourthoumieu
A year after the declaration of drought in north-eastern Kenya, priorities are changing.

The UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) has approved US$6.1 million for a resilience-building project in the border communities of Turkana, Kenya. This marks the first anniversary of the UN declaration of famine in two areas of Somalia, and Kenya’s declaration of drought in the north-east. 

This year, below-normal rainfall in parts of Kenya between March and June threatens to undermine communities’ recovery from the 2011 drought.  The poorest households in north-eastern Kenya are likely to face a crisis through mid-October. Food insecurity for these households in the south-eastern and coastal lowlands is likely to deteriorate from August onwards. 
The project, which was launched on 18 July by Kenyan Minister Mohamed Elmi, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Kenya Aeneas Chuma, and Ambassador Toshihisa Takata of Japan to Kenya, reflects a change in thinking and approach one year after the crisis. Drought response is now being expanded to incorporate resilience-building and livelihood support.
Pastoralists like Patrick Katelo say this expansion is influencing programming in critical areas, such as water and pasture regeneration. 
“We will start seeing the impact in years to come and not immediately,” he told OCHA. “We are hoping that there will be no extended dry-spell period in the October rains. If we experience dry spells in October, it might extend the impact of the 2011 drought crisis. But we must continue to integrate long-term strategies into short-term emergency responses to drought.” 
Projects such as UNTFHS are feeding into broader resilience-building programmes in the region. This includes “Ending Drought Emergencies in the Horn of Africa”, which was launched in September 2011 in Nairobi by a summit of regional Heads of State and Governments.
The initiative aims to build drought resilience through cross-border cooperation on issues including resource management, market access and trade, basic social services, and managing risks to prevent and mitigate disasters. 
The OCHA-managed UNTFHS was established in 1999 to promote human security through the protection and empowerment of people and communities threatened in their survival, livelihoods and dignity.
Since 1999, it has committed over US$350 million to projects in more than 80 countries.
Reporting by OCHA Eastern Africa