AP International

UN humanitarian official urges attention to drought in Kenya

A mother helps her malnourished son stand after he collapsed near their hut in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya, Thursday, May 12, 2022. United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths visited the area on Thursday to see the effects of the drought which the U.N. says is a severe climate-induced humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

TURKANA, Kenya (AP) — A top United Nations humanitarian official has raised concern about people going hungry in a remote part of northern Kenya, joining calls for the international community to commit more resources to address the wider region’s drought crisis.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said he saw families in Kenya’s Turkana region that have nothing left after their animals starved to death. Turkana is an epicenter of the drought affecting parts of the East African country.

“The world’s attention is elsewhere, and we know that,” Griffiths said during a visit to the region Thursday. “And the world’s misery has not left Turkana, and the world’s rains have not come to Turkana, and we’ve seen four successive failures of the rains.”

Griffiths and other humanitarian representatives visited a pastoralist community in Turkana’s Lomuputh area as part of efforts to draw attention to the humanitarian challenge stemming from the drought.

“Lomoputh deserves our attention,” Griffiths said, noting that children scavenging for fruit to eat need help “to have the slightest possibility to survive to the next day.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the drought conditions a national disaster in September 2021.

Some residents of Lomoputh spoke to The Associated Press of their desperate need for food aid.

“I have not received any help, and this child has not eaten anything since yesterday,” Jecinta Maluk, a mother of five children, said. “This is the main problem.”

The extreme drought in Kenya, where 3.5 million people are affected by severe food insecurity and acute malnutrition, has excacerbated the factors causing people to go hungry.

The U.N. warned earlier this year that an estimated 13 million people are facing severe hunger in the wider Horn of Africa region as a result of persistent drought conditions. Malnutrition rates are high in the region, and drought conditions are affecting pastoral and farming communities.

Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya face the driest conditions recorded since 1981, the U.N. World Food Program reported in February.

Somalia is seen as particularly vulnerable. About 250,000 people there died from hunger in 2011, when the U.N. declared a famine in some parts of the country. Half of them were children.

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