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UN humanitarian official wants attention on drought in Kenya

A mother helps her malnourished son stand after he collapsed near their hut in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya on Thursday May 12 2022 (Brian Inganga/AP)
A mother helps her malnourished son stand after he collapsed near their hut in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya on Thursday May 12 2022 (Brian Inganga/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 UN 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 epicentre of the drought affecting parts of the East African country.

Mohamed Mohamud, a ranger from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy, looks at the carcass of a giraffe that died of hunger near Matana Village, Wajir County, Kenya, last October
Mohamed Mohamud, a ranger from the Sabuli Wildlife Conservancy, looks at the carcass of a giraffe that died of hunger near Matana Village, Wajir County, Kenya, last October (Brian Inganga/AP)

“The world’s attention is elsewhere and we know that,” Mr Griffiths said during a visit to the region on 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.”

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

Young girls pull containers of water as they return to their huts from a well in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya
Young girls pull containers of water as they return to their huts from a well in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya (Brian Inganga/AP)

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 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 exacerbated the factors causing people to go hungry.

A father helps his malnourished son to walk near their hut in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya
A father helps his malnourished son to walk near their hut in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya (Brian Inganga/AP)

The UN 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 UN World Food Programme reported in February.

Somalia is seen as particularly vulnerable.

About 250,000 people there died from hunger in 2011, when the UN declared a famine in some parts of the country. Half were children.