Skip to main content

Humanitarian food aid mitigating worse outcomes, though needs continue to outpace assistance levels

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Kenya
  • February - September 2023
Humanitarian food aid mitigating worse outcomes, though needs continue to outpace assistance levels

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • Ongoing and planned humanitarian assistance is expected to support slightly less severe acute food insecurity across much of northern and eastern Kenya, though widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes will likely persist in these arid and semi-arid areas through late 2023. A below-average October to December short rains marked the fifth consecutive poor rainy season, severely limiting food and income from crop and livestock production. Although food assistance and government safety nets are expected to continue mitigating large consumption deficits among beneficiary households, supporting Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in northwestern, northern, and northeastern pastoral livelihood zones, the scale and severity of need is still outpacing assistance delivery. 

      • In January 2023, SMART surveys indicated that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), is Extremely Critical (≥30 percent) in Laisamis sub-county of Marsabit and in Turkana South sub-county of Turkana. The GAM (WHZ) is Critical (15-29.9 percent) in Samburu, Mandera, Garissa, Isiolo, Turkana (Turkana West, Turkana Central, and Turkana North sub-counties), Baringo (Tiaty sub-county), and Marsabit (North Horr and Moyale sub-counties). Although insufficient food is one driver of the high levels of acute malnutrition, limited access to water and chronically poor access to sanitation and hygiene facilities is also driving persistently high morbidity that contributes to the high GAM prevalence. Compared to the SMART surveys undertaken in July 2022, the prevalence of acute malnutrition has generally declined, likely driven by ongoing nutrition interventions.
      • In the pastoral areas, rapidly depleting forage and water resources, high levels of livestock migration far from homesteads, and poor livestock body conditions have resulted in little to no milk for consumption or sale, contributing to the high levels of acute malnutrition. High maize prices and below-average goat prices are together driving goat-to-maize terms of trade that are 20 to 65 percent below average levels, indicative of significantly reduced household food access. Conflict and insecurity are also disrupting typical livelihood activities, displacing households, and resulting in the loss of property and destruction of infrastructure. Many poor households are reliant on humanitarian assistance to bridge food consumption gaps or prevent engagement in more severe coping, though many are still acutely food insecure.
      • In the marginal agricultural areas, the short rains harvest for maize, cowpeas, and green grams was around 20 to 80 percent below average as a result of the below-average area planted, low access to inputs, poor rainfall, and the destruction of crops by wild animals and crop pest invasions. High staple food prices and lower-than-normal access to key sources of income amid increased competition for on- and off-farm labor opportunities have reduced household food access. As a result, widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist, with area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Kitui and parts of Makueni.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Rainfall performance: The October to December 2022 short rains were largely delayed across Kenya, particularly in southeastern and coastal areas. In the cropping areas of Isiolo, southern Turkana, and northern Samburu, the start of rainfall was over a month delayed, which significantly shortened the rainy season and negatively affected the harvest. The late start of the rains also significantly limited forage, browse, and water regeneration. Overall, cumulative rainfall was below-average, with most of northern and eastern Kenya recording rainfall totals less than 85 percent of the 40-year average (Figure 1), marking the fifth consecutive below-average rainy season since the October to December 2020 short rains. Average to above-average rainfall was recorded in western Kenya and the Rift Valley, although this is not a part of the main rainy season, whereas average rainfall was recorded in some localized areas of Kitui, Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado, Marsabit, and Turkana where this is a main rainy season.

    Figure 1

    Seasonal rainfall accumulation percent of the 1981 to 2010 average, October 1 to December 31, 2022
    Map showing cumulatively below-average rainfall across most of Kenya for the October to December 2022 period.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Crop production: The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that Kenya will produce around 35.4 million 90-kilogram bags of maize following the conclusion of the national harvest in 2022, around 10 to 15 percent below the five-year average. The below average harvest is attributed to the poor rainfall and high prices for inputs that resulted in below normal area planted and reduced cropping activities, particularly in the high and medium production areas. In the marginal agricultural areas, the area planted for the October to December short rains was approximately 10 to 25 percent below average for maize and roughly 17 percent below average for cowpeas. Additionally, some crops were destroyed by wild animals and African and Fall Army Worm (in Makueni and Kitui). As a result of these factors, maize, cowpeas, and green grams production is estimated at 20 to 80 percent below average. Conversely, the area planted for green grams ranged from 7 percent below average in the southeast to 70 percent above average in coastal areas. In coastal areas rainfall was relatively better, seed availability was higher following the recent harvest, and a castor oil initiative plowed land for farmers for free where they also grew cowpeas and green grams.

    In preparation for the 2023 long rains season, registered farmers are collecting government-subsidized fertilizer priced at 3,500 Kenyan Shillings (KES) per 50-kilogram bag (~27 USD) for up to 100 bags of fertilizer, which is almost half the commercial price of 6,500 KES per 50-kg bag (~50 USD). This initiative is intended to incentivise and support maize crop production across the country.

    Rangeland resources: Any improvements to forage and water resources were short-lived given the below-average short rains season and the cumulative impact of the persisting drought. As a result, livestock body conditions are largely poor to very poor for grazers and browsers across pastoral areas, with conditions being more alarming in the pastoral northwestern and northern livelihood zones.

    Livestock herd sizes and mortality: The poor livestock body conditions are also resulting in poor conception and birth rates. Poor pastoral households’ herds remain below average and range from 1 to 4 Tropical Livestock Units1 (TLUs), compared to upwards of 12 TLUs normally. Furthermore, herd sizes are continuing to gradually decline from deaths and excess sales amid limited births, and there are reports of some pastoralists losing their entire herd. According to Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), around 2.61 million livestock have died since October 2021 due to the drought. Since the start of the October to December 2022 short rains, livestock mortality rates have largely been within normal levels, though an unidentified camel disease outbreak in Garissa County killed an atypical number of camels, and anthrax killed around 1,000 camels in Wajir County. For pastoral households who obtain the majority of their income through livestock sales, continual livestock deaths on top of earlier large-scale losses and limited births is significantly affecting their access to food.

    Livestock migration: Livestock migration remains atypically high with 40 to 80 percent of livestock having moved to grazing areas in neighboring counties or across national borders (Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania). The poor rangeland resources also continue to drive increases in return trekking distances to livestock water sources, with livestock travelling 11 to 35 kilometers on average, compared to 2 to 10 kilometers normally.

    Milk production: The poor livestock body conditions and long trekking distances are resulting in negligible milk production in the pastoral northwest, compared to 2 to 5 litres per household per day normally, according to NDMA sentinel site monitoring data. This also marks over a year of households recording no milk production in Turkana according to NDMA. Across the rest of the pastoral areas, milk production is 50 to 70 percent below average, significantly reducing household access to this important source of food and income.

    Domestic water access: Most households rely on boreholes, water pans/dams, rivers, shallow wells, traditional river wells, rock catchments, piped water, and springs for water. Based on field assessments for the KFSSG short rains assessment in January 2023, the recharge of water sources from the short rains varied from less than 20 percent of typical recharge levels in Mandera, West Pokot, and across the pastoral northwest livelihood zone, to 20 to 50 percent across the rest of the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, to upwards of 75 to 80 percent in Kwale and Narok counties. Water sources are most likely to be depleted by the end of March in the absence of a timely start of the March to May long rains, except in Narok and Nyeri counties where water sources will likely last until the end of April.

    The distance households have to travel to access water has increased across most livelihood zones. In the agropastoral, southeast, and coastal marginal agricultural zones, this distance is within the normal 0.5 to 2 kilometers, except in parts of Kilifi where households are travelling 3 to 8 kilometers for water compared to 2 to 4 kilometers normally. However, in the pastoral areas, households are travelling 6 to 20 kilometers, compared to 5 to 10 kilometers normally. The decline in water availability is also resulting in longer waiting times as households wait to fill up their jerrycans. While wait times are generally normal in coastal marginal agricultural areas, in the southeastern marginal agricultural livelihood zones, wait times are 30 to 60 minutes compared to 10 to 20 minutes, and in the pastoral northwest and northeast zones, wait times are 30 to 180 minutes compared to 15 to 60 minutes normally. The reduced access to water is increasing the time and effort households must invest in this crucial livelihood activity at the expense of others.

    Water prices: According to the KFSSG short rains field assessments, the cost of water is generally normal across most pastoral and marginal agricultural livelihood zones, ranging from 3 to 10 KES per 20-liter jerrican. However, in northeastern pastoral areas, water is selling for 5 to 10 KES per 20-liter jerrycan, compared to the normal price of 2 to 5 KES.

    Due to the lower water levels, increased return trekking distances, and increased waiting time, household water consumption has declined and ranges from 10 to 15 liters per person per day (lppd) compared to the normal consumption of 12 to 25 lppd, according to the KFSSG short rains field assessments. However, in parts of Mandera, Garissa, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot and Narok counties, households are reporting consuming 3 to 7 lppd, well below the normal amounts. The reduced access to water is limiting households’ ability to use water for drinking, cooking, and washing.

    A lack of water is likely also contributing to the high malnutrition and morbidity rates, as cholera outbreaks have been reported in Mandera, Garissa, Wajir, Tana River, and Marsabit. Since the confirmation of the first case in October 2022, the WHO has reported that cholera has affected 16 counties, with around 5,379 cases by February 28, 2023, and 89 deaths (CFR 1.7 percent). West Pokot is the newest county to be reporting new cases. According to a Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) report, most affected counties have controlled the outbreak through county level actions by the health department along with support from partners.

    Maize and bean prices: In January, wholesale maize prices at markets monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture and FEWS NET in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu declined slightly but remained well above the five-year average. Wholesale maize prices in these markets range from 4,600 to 5,400 KES per 90-kg bag, around 55 to 85 percent above the five-year average; however, prices increased slightly in Eldoret and are 125 percent above the five-year average due to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) purchasing maize at around 5,100 KES per 90-kilogram bag compared to 4,800 KES per 90-kilogram bag offered by the millers. Wholesale bean prices remain around 40 to 60 percent above the five-year average, ranging from 11,200 to 14,000 KES per 90-kilogram bag while retail prices in pastoral and marginal agricultural markets range from 132 to 164 KES per kilogram, around 55 to 70 percent above the five-year average.

    The historically above average maize and bean prices are driven by below-average stocks following consecutive poor production seasons, high market demand, and high importation and marketing costs. In the marginal agricultural areas, retail maize prices at NDMA and FEWS NET monitored markets range from 67 to 79 KES per kilogram, around 55 to 100 percent above the five-year averages while in the pastoral areas, prices are around 40 to 100 percent above the five-year average and retailing for 85 to 110 KES per kilogram, relatively higher than in the marginal agricultural areas driven by high demand supported by ongoing humanitarian cash transfers in addition to the previously mentioned drivers.

    Goat prices: The poor livestock body conditions and increased market supply amid excess distress sales are together keeping goat prices low across most of Kenya. Prices in February are 1,565 to 5,200 KES per goat, around 40 percent below the five-year average in Turkana and Marsabit. Compared to last year, prices range from 24 percent lower than last year in Meru to 13 percent higher than last year in Laikipia.

    Terms-of-trade: Due to the generally low goat prices and high maize prices, the goat-to-maize terms of trade across the pastoral and agropastoral areas remains around 20 to 65 percent below average (Figure 2). In January 2023, the sale of a goat can purchase around 15 to 37 kilograms of maize in the northwestern, northern, and northeastern pastoral areas, which could provide the equivalent of only around four to 12 days of minimum kilocalories for a household of six.


    Figure 2

    Goat-to-maize terms-of-trade for pastoral and agropastoral areas of Kenya compared to the five-year average
    Chart showing the goat-to-maize terms-of-trade in pastoral and agropastoral markets across Kenya. Term-of-trade are well below average across Kenya.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from NDMA

    Conflict and insecurity: Across the pastoral and marginal areas, resource-based conflict over forage and water is being reported as livestock migrate into atypical areas. Incidences of conflict that resulted in at least 10 human fatalities were reported between in-migrating herders from Garissa, Kajiado, and other surrounding pastoral counties and local farmers in Kitui, Meru, Makueni, Kilifi, Lamu, and Kwale counties. There are also reports of human-wildlife conflicts in parts of Laikipia, Meru North, Kitui, Kilifi, and Lamu counties where more than 247 acres of crops and 300 farms were damaged by wildlife and just over 60 heads of livestock were killed by hyenas and wild dogs. Banditry and cattle rustling incidences are also being reported in Samburu, Baringo, Laikipia, and West Pokot counties resulting in an unknown number of livestock stolen and several people killed or injured. The insecurity is also constraining household access to income due to a 30-day curfew order banning public gatherings beginning February 14, 2023. Similar ongoing security operations in Lamu continue to negatively affect market operations and livelihood activities, driving significant staple food price increases.

    Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps: The number of refugees in Kenya has continually increased over the past few years, mainly due to of the volatile political and security situations in several neighboring countries. In the Dadaab refugee camps, the government has indicated that the registration and documentation of new arrivals – suspended since 2016 – would resume in early 2023. In 2022, over 113,000 Somalis who had arrived in 2022 and in previous years were profiled by the Department of Refugee Services (DRS) and UNHCR to enable them to receive food and other basic assistance. Based on arrival trends in the second half of 2022, over 130,000 new arrivals are expected in 2023. The three Dadaab camps do not have adequate space to host newly arrived refugees, forcing many to reside in makeshift shelters along the outskirts of the camps, where clean water and sanitation facilities are insufficient or non-existent. In November 2022, the government agreed to the reopening of Ifo 2 site in Dadaab to host the new arrivals. The Government has also agreed on remodeling this site into an integrated settlement similar to Kalobeyei, in order to provide humanitarian assistance in a sustainable manner to both the refugees and host communities. In Kakuma, over 20,000 new arrivals were registered in 2022, mainly from South Sudan. Reception centers in Kakuma are holding nearly double their capacity, leading to congestion and posing serious health risks. Across the two camps, approximately 440,000 refugees are continuing to receive rations equivalent to approximately 50 percent of a daily minimum kilocalorie needs.  

    Interannual and emergency food assistance: Ongoing safety nets such as cash transfers to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), and Persons with Severe Disability-Cash Transfer (PWSD-CT) are being distributed to around one million targeted households across Kenya with beneficiaries receiving 2,000 KES each month. In Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, and Mandera counties, approximately 101,000 households continue to receive cash transfers of 5,400 KES (~44 USD) once every two months through NDMA's Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP), sufficient to meet seven to nine days of monthly kilocalorie needs at current maize prices.

    Humanitarian partners are also providing food assistance and cash transfers to drought-affected households. The  WFP is continuing to provide assistance to 175,000 households at 30 to 50 percent of kilocalorie needs through food commodities and cash-based transfers from their Sustainable Food Systems Programme (SFSP), in addition to supporting around 220,260 households through WFP’s Lisha Jamii Programme where recipients from specific counties receive the equivalent of a 50 to 75 percent of a ration through cash and food commodities through June 2023. In mid-March the WFP announced that the Lisha Jamii Phase II program will take place between April and September targeting around 940,300 people across ten counties. Other humanitarian partners are also engaged in various interventions, including water trucking, distributing cash transfers and humanitarian assistance, along with the distribution of livestock feed and livestock destocking programs.

    Acute malnutrition: Based on the February 2023 IPC AMN analysis, which drew on data from NDMA nutrition surveillance data and SMART surveys, over 970,200 children aged 6 to 59 months and around 142,180 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are currently malnourished, a 10 and 22 percent increase, respectively, since the July 2022 IPC AMN analysis.

    Findings indicate that the prevalence of GAM has somewhat declined but remains within a statistically similar range across most counties surveyed. The exception to this is Turkana north sub-county where GAM significantly declined from Extremely Critical (GAM (WHZ) ≥30.0 percent) to Critical (GAM (WHZ) 15.0-29.9 percent), likely due to ongoing nutrition interventions. However, the continued prevalence of Extremely Critical acute malnutrition in Turkana South sub-county of Turkana and Laisamis sub-county of Marsabit remain of high concern (Figure 3). The high acute malnutrition prevalence is likely driven by the limited consumption of food (quality and quantity), including low to no milk consumption. Additionally, high morbidity levels are also a driving factor. Other notable changes in acute malnutrition include a decline from Critical to Serious (GAM (WHZ) 10.0 to 14.9 percent) in Wajir and from Serious to Alert (GAM (WHZ) 5.0 to 9.9 percent) in Saku, a sub-county of Marsabit. However, the prevalence of acute malnutrition did increase from Alert to Critical in Moyale sub-county of Marsabit, driven by a high disease burden and food insecurity. Across the remaining pastoral areas of the country, the prevalence of acute malnutrition remained similar to July 2022.

    In the marginal agricultural areas, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is largely Acceptable (GAM WHZ <5 percent). However, Alert levels  of acute malnutrition are prevalent in Kilifi, Kwale, and parts of Meru (Meru North), and Embu (Mbeere) counties driven at least in part by low household food stocks, low household purchasing power, and declining household food consumption as a result of consecutive below average harvests.

    Figure 3

    Prevalence of acute malnutrition in Kenya, February 2023
    Map showing acute malnutrition in Kenya for February 2023.

    Source: KFSSG/NITWG

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In the pastoral areas of Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Isiolo, and Wajir, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely, supported by ongoing cash transfers and humanitarian assistance. Due to the ongoing drought, below average forage and low water availability has driven intense livestock migration and largely poor livestock body conditions. As a result, livestock sale value and milk production remain significantly below average, reducing poor pastoral households’ access to income and food. This is exacerbated by the fact that the prices of livestock that are sold are not keeping pace with high food prices, resulting in poor households accessing less food than usual through the sale of their animals. Many households are increasingly relying on coping strategies to access their minimum food needs: according to recently-conducted SMART surveys and NDMA sentinel site data, there is widespread use of consumption-based coping – including lowering meal frequency and food portions – and engagement in coping to mitigate consumption deficits, including reducing expenses on health, withdrawing children from school, eating less preferred or less expensive foods, and sending household members to eat elsewhere. Extremely concerning is the increasing trend in the number of pastoral households in the NDMA sentinel sites that are reporting the application of more coping strategies such as selling their last female animals or destitution. In Garissa, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected. Although assistance is ongoing, a lower percent of the population is being reached. Additionally, the drought was less severe, resulting in generally fair goat and camel body conditions and higher access to milk.

    In the marginal areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are most likely in Kitui and parts of Makueni counties, driven by limited access to income following the poor short rains harvest and high maize prices, low milk production, and lower household purchasing power. However, across the rest of the marginal agricultural areas, slightly lower maize prices and higher food stocks, along with relatively greater access to off-farm income sources are supporting Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Nevertheless, households are engaging in some coping strategies to meet their food needs. 

    Across the rest of the country Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present, supported by normal access to food and income, despite high food prices. In the refugee camps, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are present amid ongoing humanitarian assistance. However, increases in refugee populations are straining resources for humanitarian partners.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for Kenya.

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on the historical analogues of waning La Niña events and the NMME and C3S forecasts, the March to May 2023 long rains season in northern and eastern Kenya is likely to be mixed, ranging from average to below average. However, temperatures through September are likely to be average to above average. In the western unimodal areas of Kenya, the February to September long rains are likely to be near-average with localized areas of below-average, although there is uncertainty given the long range nature of the forecast.
    • The continuation of the drought into 2023 is expected to result in another below-average harvest in marginal agricultural areas for the March to May long rains and the further deterioration of already below-average pasture and water resources in pastoral areas.
    • Limited regeneration of forage and water resources during the October to December 2022 short rains will maintain above average trekking distances to water sources for people and livestock along with atypically high migration through March 2023. The average to below-average 2023 March to May long rains will provide some regeneration of forage and water resources through at least July supporting livestock in the dry-season grazing areas. However, from August forage and water resources will deteriorate and likely remain below average throughout the scenario period, keeping return trekking distances to water sources for domestic use and for livestock above average levels and drive atypical migration through September 2023.
    • Livestock migration is expected to intensify and remain atypically high through September with up to 70 percent of livestock herds expected to move away from homesteads to the dry-season grazing areas and further livestock herds are expected to remain in the dry-season grazing lands and further along atypical migration routes.  This is expected to limit milk availability and increase incidences of livestock diseases and resource-based and intertribal conflicts.
    • Below-average livestock birth rates are expected through the scenario period, following below average conception rates during the 2022 short rains. Livestock births will be insufficient to raise livestock holdings amid sales and deaths. Additionally, below-average conceptions are also expected during the March to May long rains season. Livestock holdings are expected to remain 50 to 60 percent below average throughout the projection period.
    • Maize prices are expected to follow seasonal trends and be slightly above last year’s prices but significantly higher than the five-year average, due to reduced carryover stocks, expectations of a below-average harvest, high costs of production and marketing, and high global maize prices. According to FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, wholesale maize prices will reduce slightly while following seasonal trends and be around 40 to 80 percent above the five-year average. Maize imports will improve supply, but maize prices will remain above the five-year average throughout the scenario period due to below average volumes, high-priced imports, high fuel and fertilizer prices, and anticipated below-average long rains production.
    • Dry bean prices will likely remain above the five-year average and 2022 prices, while following seasonal trends, driven by high market demand following consecutive below-average production seasons and high fuel and transport costs. Wholesale prices will likely remain around 40 to 60 percent above the five-year average.  
    • Ongoing safety nets such as OVC, OPCT, and PWSD-CT are expected to provide approximately one million targeted households across Kenya with 2,000 KES each month. In Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, and Wajir the HSNP will likely continue disbursing 2,700 KES each month to at least 100,000 households. Approximately 175,000 households are also expected to receive assistance equivalent to 30 to 50 percent of their kilocalorie needs through WFP’s SFSP. Additionally, WFP’s Lisha Jamii Programme is set to continue providing a 75 percent ration to around 220,260 households expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Turkana, Garissa, Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Mandera, and Marsabit (Priority 1), and Tana River, Baringo, Kitui, Kwale, and Kilifi (Priority 2) through June. Phase two of the Lisha Jamii Programme will target 940,300 beneficiaries across 10 counties from March to October.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In pastoral areas, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) area-level outcomes are expected to persist across most northwestern, northern, and eastern pastoral areas of Kenya due to the negative impact of the drought but expected continuation of relatively large-scale humanitarian assistance. Low livestock productivity, below-average crop production, and low household income and purchasing power will persist through out the projection period. The likely average to below average March to May long rains will only partially regenerate forage and water resources towards the end of the projection period, keeping return trekking distances for domestic use and livestock higher than normal, therefore requiring poor households to invest more effort than usual in water collection and livestock maintenance at the expense of other income-generating activities that support food access. The slight improvement in forage and water resources will not be enough for migrated livestock to return to the wet season grazing areas nor restore their body condition, keeping sale values low. Additionally, the below-average herd sizes and body conditions will keep total livestock milk production and consumption among poor households’ herds low, contributing to increases in the prevalence of acute malnutrition, especially among children under five years old. The prevalence of acute malnutrition will also be driven, in part, by persistently lower food access along with other factors such as low access to clean water and insufficient access to sanitation and hygiene facilities and healthcare. Overall, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is likely to be Critical through September 2023 in Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu, Isiolo counties, part of Turkana (East and West sub-counties) and Tiaty Sub County in Baringo County.  However, the prevalence of Extremely Critical acute malnutrition is likely to persist in Turkana (Turkana North and South sub-counties), Marsabit (Laisamis and North Horr sub-counties) and Mandera.

    Resource-based conflicts are likely to increase as livestock herders encroach on private ranches and farms, while an upsurge of livestock diseases due to crowding will likely result in further livestock deaths. Overall, poor households will be forced to rely more on non-livestock income sources like non-agricultural wage labor, remittances, and charcoal and firewood sales. Household will likely continue to apply coping strategies to minimize food consumption gaps. Ongoing and planned humanitarian assistance will remain an key source of food that helps poor households minimize food consumption gaps.

    In marginal agricultural areas, household dependency on market purchases is likely to remain high following the below-average short rains harvest. The harvest is likely to somewhat improve household food availability and consumption through mid-March. Furthermore, with the start of the March to May long rains, households will earn income from planting and weeding, but the fact that the forecast is tending towards average to below-average rainfall signals that the availability of these labor opportunities will likely be lower than normal. From late March when poor households’ food stocks are depleted, households will intensify their reliance on off-farm income from casual labor, charcoal and firewood sales, and remittances for market purchases. However, increased competition for these sources of income will limit the degree to which poor households can increase their income. In many areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely, with some worst-affect poor households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, in Meru (Meru North), Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka), Kitui, and Makueni, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected due to lower agricultural crop production and labor, along with significantly below average production short-cycle crop production in May given that most seed stalk from last year was consumed as a coping strategy.

    From June to September, the long rains harvest May will improve food availability and consumption through mid-to-late August, although poor households’ food stocks will be depleted earlier than normal based on the expectation of a below average harvest. Poor households will then begin increasing their reliance on markets to purchase food. Staple food prices are expected to remain high, though seasonally reduced demand will drive slight price declines between June and August. Household incomes from crop sales from the long rains harvest will likely be limited by a below-average harvest. Poor households will likely maintain their reliance on income from off-farm activities, and many will continue to engage in coping strategies as a result of the cumulative impacts of the prolonged drought that has resulted in lower household assets and fewer ways to expand income. Faced with low household food availability, reduced incomes, and limited purchasing power due to above-average staple food prices, poor households in most marginal agricultural areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The most-affected poor households in these areas are likely to engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in an attempt to bridge consumption gaps. In parts of Embu (Mbeere), Tharaka Nithi (Tharaka) and Meru (Meru North), and Kitui and Makueni counties, poor households are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) driven by the significantly below average long rains harvest in July, which will limit household food and income availability and access.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalMarch to May 2023 rainfall that is solidly average or somewhat above average with normal temporal and spatial distributionIf rainfall is cumulatively average to above average, the subsequent improvements to rangeland resource availability would prompt pastoral and livestock migration into normal wet season grazing areas closer to homesteads and drive improvements in body conditions and productivity, improving household milk availability. Households are likely to minimize livestock sales to improve their herd sizes, resulting in higher livestock prices. In marginal agricultural areas, an average to above-average harvest will increase household food stocks and improve access to income from crop sales. Although staple food prices would likely remain above average, an increase in household incomes would partially improve household purchasing power. Overall, improvement from Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) and from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes would be likely between June and September.
    Northwestern, northern, and northeastern pastoral livelihood zonesChange in current government safety net and humanitarian food assistance plans

    FEWS NET currently assesses that the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in Kenya is low, in large part based on available food assistance plans and given that humanitarian access and government capacity for safety nets are expected to remain normal during the outlook period. Both regular safety nets and emergency assistance would need to be minimal or completely absent to create a scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) was considered likely in Turkana and Marsabit, and it is expected there is a low likelihood of this occurring.

    Although it is also not the most likely scenario, there is a higher likelihood of delays and interruptions to assistance. Significant delays or interruptions in assistance would likely result in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes across northern pastoral areas, with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Turkana and Marsabit.  

    Northwestern pastoral livelihood zonesSuccessful security operations in insecure areasPeace and stability in the localized conflict-prone parts of Turkana, West Pokot, and Samburu counties will improve household access to livelihood activities and humanitarian assistance, supporting Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.


    Areas of Concern

    Northern Pastoral (Marsabit and Samburu counties) and Northwestern Pastoral (Turkana County) Livelihood Zones (Figure 4)

    Figure 4

    Area of concern reference map, Northern and Northwestern Pastoral livelihood zones
    Area of concern reference map, Northern and Northwestern Pastoral livelihood zones

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    The October to December short rains were between ten and thirty days early in areas surrounding Lake Turkana, but ten to thirty days late across the rest of the livelihood zone. Overall, most areas received rainfall that was only 50 to 75 percent of the long-term average, while in northern and eastern Marsabit rainfall was less than 50 percent of average. The poorly performing 2022 short rains marked the fifth consecutive below-average season.

    Following the cumulatively below average rainfall, field data from the KFSSG 2022 Short Rains Assessment indicates that most poor households are accessing water from boreholes, water pans, rivers and shallow wells, and Lake Turkana. Monitored waterpoints are dry or near dry, and field reports estimate that approximately 98 percent of open water sources have dried up earlier than normal due to poor water recharge levels during the short rains and past poor seasons. Most shallow wells have dried up, with remaining wells expected to have enough water for the next two months. Similarly, boreholes are likely to last for more than three months but are being impacted by below average recharge and high use.

    As a result, the average time it takes to return livestock from water points is around 15 to 35 km, more than three times the 2 to 10 km that livestock typically travel to access water. Due to the limited access to water, cattle, sheep, and goats are accessing water every two to three days compared to four days a week normally. Camels are also accessing water less often, typically every seven to 10 days compared to three to 10 days normally. In the eastern part of the zone, information suggests camels are accessing water every 10 to 16 days as the lack of forage and water is forcing livestock to trek for longer distances.

    Households are also travelling longer distances to access water, travelling on average around 8 to 15.5 kilometers compared to around 7 to 10 kilometers normally. Due to the congestion around available water sources, waiting times have also increased significantly and range from 75 to 90 minutes compared to 15 to 45 minutes normally in Marsabit. In Turkana, households at NDMA pastoral sentinel sites in February are reporting waiting times of two to three hours, with some households in Turkana South, Loima, and East sub-counties reporting waiting times of four to five hours. The above average distances and increased waiting times, up to two and a half times the normal, indicates households increasingly have less time to carry out other livelihood activities that would earn income to improve their food access.

    The cumulative impact of the drought has resulted in poor browse and forage conditions, corroborated by eVIIRS NDVI satellite data that shows vegetation greenness at 60 to 90 percent of the 10-year average, or worse, with the poorest conditions in Marsabit and Samburu counties. In addition to consecutive seasons of poor rainfall, these conditions are driven by high land surface temperatures and overgrazing.

    Due to the lack of available forage and long trekking distances to water, the NDMA is reporting that 92 percent of camels, 98 percent of cattle, 76 percent of goats, and 91 percent of sheep in Marsabit have very poor body conditions, with most livestock showing four ribs. The rest of the livestock reportedly have poor body conditions, with just 3 percent of camels with fair body conditions. Additionally, the NDMA has reported that around 203,198 cattle, 584,250 goats, 615,407 sheep, and 83,456 camels across Marsabit, Turkana, and Samburu counties have died since October 2022.

    The poor rangeland resources are continuing to drive atypical migration within and to areas outside of the area of concern. An estimated 75 to 85 percent of livestock are in the dry season grazing areas located within and outside the livelihood zone, including to neighboring counties such as Isiolo, Laikipia, and Nyandarua, and neighboring countries (Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia). Livestock from Baringo have reportedly also migrated into parts of Turkana, while livestock from Wajir have been reported in Moyale sub-county of Marsabit. Some livestock from Dukana and Ileret in North Horr sub-county in Marsabit have migrated into the Garwole, Araftis, and Omorate areas of Ethiopia, and Samburu County. Large populations of cattle are also being transported by trucks, primarily by better-off households who can afford to do so, to the border of Wajir and Isiolo. The increased migration in search of better rangeland resources has been affected by conflicts, water shortages, and the inability to trek for longer hours due to poor livestock body conditions.

    In the western parts of the livelihood zone, incidents of insecurity involving banditry attacks and livestock rustling were reported in Turkana East and South, with incidences of livestock theft being reported in pockets of Samburu North sub-county. The livestock theft and rustling have resulted in three fatalities, the closure of three schools, the loss of livelihoods, and displacement of at least 300 households.

    Milk production is negligible across the livelihood zone compared to a normal two to five liters per household per day, driven by the progressive deterioration of livestock body conditions over five consecutive poor rainfall seasons. Relatedly, household milk consumption also remains negligible, and well below the average one to three liters per household per day. According to NDMA sentinel site bulletins, this marks over a year of households reporting little to no milk production or consumption, severely limiting household access to an important source of food and income.

    Most poor households across all the livelihood zones are relying on the occasional purchase of powdered milk and milk packets from shops, retailing at an average of 100 to 160 KES per liter (0.77 to 1.23 USD), more than twice the normal price of 50 to 60 KES (0.38 to 0.46 USD). In Marsabit county, fresh milk is being sourced from the external markets of Nanyuki and Meru and is currently retailing at 140 KES (1.07 USD) per liter compared to 110 KES (0.84 USD) normally.

    In February, maize prices across the zone are 67 to 73 percent above the five-year average, driven by low carryover stocks, high transportation costs, high priced cross-border imports, and high demand. Maize prices range from 84 to 117 KES per kg (0.65 to 0.90 USD/kg) across the zone, with maize prices 47 to 60 percent higher than last year. The high staple food prices are continuing to constrain household purchasing power.

    Due to the widespread poor livestock body condition and increased supply to markets as households engage in distress sales to earn income, goat prices range from 1,565 to 2,580 KES (~12 to 20 USD) and are 11 to 42 percent below the five-year average. Additionally, prices remain low due to limited demand amid poor livestock body condition.

    Driven by the high maize prices and low goat prices, the goat-to-maize terms of trade are at 13 to 30 kilograms of maize for the sale of a goat, around 65 percent below the five-year average in Marsabit and Turkana, and 49 percent below the five-year average in Samburu (Figure 5). Additionally, the 13 kg of maize for the sale of a goat is the lowest terms-of-trade recorded in Turkana since at least January 2008 when FEWS NET’s market records began. In February, the sale of a goat could purchase enough maize for the equivalent of around 3 to 10 days of kilocalories for a household of six if they only ate maize. Overall, the very poor purchasing power for households is indicative of significantly below average household food access.

    Figure 5

    The goat-to-maize terms-of-trade across the zone
    Chart showing goat-to-maize terms of trade for Marsabit, Turkana, and Samburu. Terms of trade are well below average.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from NDMA

    In February, available information on ongoing cash transfers and food assistance interventions indicates that around 36 to 61 percent of the population are receiving humanitarian assistance (Table 2). The assistance is being distributed as monthly payments or one-time payments expected to last for three to five months. In Marsabit, an estimated 46,693 households, around 61 percent of the population, are receiving cash transfers and food assistance. Cash transfers range between 5,000 to 9,000 KES (~38 to 69 USD), covering at least 45 to 80 percent of daily kilocalorie requirements. Additionally, around 55,000 households in Turkana and just under 10,000 households in Samburu are also receiving assistance in the form of cash transfers or food assistance. At current maize prices, HSNP cash transfers of 5,400 KES (41.55 USD) every two months can purchase the equivalent of six to 10 days of monthly kilocalorie needs for a family of six, if they only ate maize. Additional interventions include water trucking, borehole rehabilitation, cattle destocking programs, and the transfer of animal feeds.  

    Table 2
    Reported cash transfers and food assistance in February 2023
    Number of households54,98746,6939,778
    Percent of population366119

    Source: NDMA

    In January 2023, SMART survey results reported that the prevalence of acute malnutrition was Extremely Critical and Critical, with the prevalence of GAM (WHZ) highest in Turkana South sub-county (GAM (WHZ) 35.2 percent) and Laisamis sub-county in Marsabit (GAM (WHZ) 32.8 percent). However, in Saku sub-county, Marsabit the prevalence of acute malnutrition was at Alert levels, while a Critical prevalence was recorded across Samburu and the rest of Turkana and Marsabit. Likely due to ongoing humanitarian interventions, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in Turkana North sub-county did decline from Extremely Critical (GAM (WHZ) 38.8 percent) in July 2022 to Critical (GAM (WHZ) 28.8 percent) in January 2023. These results reflect atypically poor nutrition outcomes in Turkana, Marsabit, and Samburu which is linked to prolonged periods of reduced food intake, including little to no milk consumption, among the pastoral community. High disease burden, partly attributable to seasonal and chronic factors including consumption of unsafe water and poor child feeding and care practices, is further contributing to the very high prevalence of acute malnutrition. Childcare and feeding practices are likely to have been compromised further as caretakers spend more time seeking food and water.

    Also according to the results of the January 2023 SMART surveys, 8 to 16 percent of households in this livelihood zone are facing severe hunger, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, and 51 to 67 percent of households are reporting moderate hunger, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), per the Household Hunger Scale (HHS). In Samburu, a SMART survey was not carried out, but NDMA sentinel site data indicates that 19 percent of households reported a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS). The SMART survey results for Marsabit and Turkana reported 14 to 29 percent of households had a poor FCS. To cope with the high food prices, households are primarily applying consumption-based coping strategies such as reducing the frequency and size of meals, borrowing food from friends or relatives, and reducing portion size and quantity of food among adults. These results, alongside an analysis of current levels of access to typical food and income sources relative to normal, support that Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely, with some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). These outcomes exist in the presence of ongoing and widespread distribution of food assistance. Given the scale of income loss, it’s likely this assistance is preventing more severe levels of acute food insecurity, indicating that Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely.


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • FEWS NET’s integrated price projections indicate that retail maize prices are expected to be around 15 to 40 percent above the five-year average due to high fuel and marketing costs, a below average 2023 long rains harvest, and high demand. Maize prices are expected to follow seasonal trends and gradually decrease as harvests and cross-border imports becoming available through the scenario period.
    • According to FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, goat prices are expected to follow the seasonal trends and improve slightly during the March to May long rains season and persist as livestock remain in dry season grazing areas, limiting supply to markets. Despite slight improvements, the livestock body conditions are expected to remain below average, keeping goat prices around 35 to 50 percent below the five-year average.
    • Households are likely to increasingly rely on non-livestock related income sources to purchase food, particularly from remittances, charcoal sales, petty trade, and construction labor. However, earnings will likely be insufficient to fully compensate for income lost from lower livestock sales.
    • The regular cash transfers under the HSNP by the national government through NDMA are planned, funded, and likely in the Northwestern Pastoral areas of Turkana and the Northern Pastoral areas of Samburu and Marsabit throughout the scenario period. Approximately 175,000 households are also expected to receive assistance equivalent to at least 30 to 50 percent of a 2,100-kilocalorie monthly ration through food commodities and cash-based transfers from WFP’s SFSP, while WFP’s Lisha Jamii Programme is expected to scale-up their assistance from March through October to provide the equivalent of 75 percent of a full monthly ration through cash and food commodities to cover 13, 17, and 31 percent of the populations of Samburu, Turkana, and Marsabit counties, respectively. Other humanitarian assistance plans by partners are only currently planned and funded through June 2023, but it is likely they will continue through at least September due to the high need and historical funding trends.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From February to May, forage and water resources are expected to deteriorate during the February to March short lean season until the likely delayed start of the March to May long rains in mid to late March. The delay in the start of the long rains will drive increases in return trekking distances to water sources for both domestic and livestock consumption. Due in part to the lack of milk, a key source of food for poor pastoral households, acute malnutrition in children under five years is likely to deteriorate to Extremely Critical levels in Turkana North and North Horr sub counties in Turkana and Marsabit counties. Additionally, below-average livestock body conditions and reduced milk productivity will keep household income from livestock and milk sales significantly below average. The 2023 long rains are likely to temporarily ameliorate rangeland conditions, though most livestock are unlikely to migrate back to wet season grazing areas. As a result, livestock body conditions are likely to stabilize but remain well below normal. Due to limited demand for livestock in poor body conditions, poor households will continue to rely on income-earning opportunities such from casual wage labor, the sale of charcoal and firewood, and remittances. Given that this income will be generally insufficient to compensate for the loss of income typically earned through livestock and milk sales, poor households are likely to continue facing food consumption gaps or are likely to only minimally meet their food needs through engaging in negative and unsustainable coping strategies. However, the distribution of humanitarian assistance is expected to support at least one in four households in this livelihood zone with between 50 to 75 percent of their daily kilocalories, supporting relatively better food security outcomes, though the need will still exceed the scale of assistance deliveries. Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely in Turkana and Marsabit counties. In Samburu, while assistance delivery is also expected, the slight recovery in livestock productivity and sale values will also contribute to somewhat better conditions, such that Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected.

    From June to September, forage and water resources will atypically decline and drive the remaining livestock herds back to the dry season grazing areas. Herders will likely increase migration to other counties and to Ethiopia and Uganda in search of better rangeland conditions. However, the increased concentration of livestock in dry season grazing areas will result in an increase in livestock disease and drive resource-based conflicts that will likely result in the loss of property, livestock, and restrict affected households of their access to typical livelihood activities. Livestock migration away from the homestead will also keep household milk availability and consumption negligible, contributing to the prevalence Critical and Extremely Critical acute malnutrition. With a likely early start to the typical July to September lean season, the lack of income from livestock and livestock resources will keep most poor households dependent on casual labor, charcoal and firewood sales, remittances, safety nets, and non-agricultural wage labor for income to purchase food. However, high food prices and increased competition for labor opportunities will keep household purchasing power low. Many households will remain reliant on support from humanitarian assistance, but will continue to face food consumption deficits or engage in negative coping as the need outpaces planned assistance levels. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Samburu and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in Turkana and Marsabit through September.

    Northeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone (Figure 6)

    Figure 6

    Area of concern reference map: Northeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone
    Area of concern reference map: Northeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    The sale of livestock and milk makes up around 60 to 80 percent of the income for poor households in the Northeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone. However, livestock holdings have been declining due to low conception and birth rates, drought-related deaths, and excess sales over the past five below-average rainy seasons. According to the 2022 KFSSG short rains assessment reports, poor households own one to three TLUs compared to four to nine normally. Due to the below average livestock herd sizes, poorer than normal body conditions, and below-average birthrates, milk production is low. According to NDMA sentinel site data, milk production ranges between less than 1 liter per household per day compared to a five-year average of 1.5 to 2 liters, with most of the milk being produced from goats and camels. Due to the below-average production, households are likely consuming any milk produced rather than selling it for income.

    Other incomes sources for poor households include livestock-related casual wage labor opportunities, charcoal/firewood sales, remittances, and national safety net programs such as the HSNP. Poor households remain reliant on markets for food purchases along with any wild foods such as fruits, roots, and tubers that are available. However, wild foods are reported to be available at very low levels.

    The cumulative impacts of five consecutive below-average rainy seasons is an unusually severe January to March lean season for poor households. Field reports indicate that rangeland resources are unseasonably poor following the recently concluded below-average October to December short rains. This is corroborated by the satellite-derived eVIIRS NDVI that shows vegetation greenness is less than 70 percent of the 2012 to 2021 mean. Additionally, water availability across the livelihood zone remains exceptionally low. Most open water sources such as water pans and dams are dry, following significantly below average recharge during the short rains. The River Daua in the northern parts of Mandera and River Ewaso in the northern parts of Isiolo are also low and at below normal levels. According to USGS’ waterpoint viewer, most boreholes are seasonally dry, increasing pressure on the remaining functioning water sources and limiting water availability for livestock and domestic use. However, the county governments, NDMA, and humanitarian partners are providing free water trucking across the livelihood zone.

    Livestock return trekking distances from grazing areas to watering points are unusually long due to the limited availability of rangeland resources. According to the NDMA monthly sentinel site bulletins, livestock return distances in the livelihood zones are 18 to 22 kilometers in February compared to the five-year average of 11 to 18 kilometers. The long distances are also reducing the frequency livestock get water. In Mandera and Wajir, livestock are accessing water twice a week compared to three to four times a week normally, while in Isiolo, livestock are accessing water twice a week compared to daily normally. The combination of limited availability of rangeland resources and exceptionally long trekking distances continues to drive declines in livestock body conditions. According to the NDMA sentinel site bulletins, and additional information from the Veterinary and Livestock Production departments gathered during the 2022 KFSSG short rains assessment, livestock body conditions are mostly fair to poor, with most cattle and sheep having very poor body conditions.

    Due to the lack of available rangeland resources and the poor body conditions, there are ongoing reports of livestock deaths due to starvation and dehydration. In Isiolo, NDMA sentinel sites report that over 45 percent of cattle have died during the drought, along with 15 percent, 25 percent, and 3 percent of goat, sheep, and camels, respectively. In Wajir, better-off pastoralists are using trucks to translocate their livestock to areas with better rangeland resources such as the Tana Riverine Livelihood Zone; however, it is unlikely that poor pastoralists can afford this. 

    The limited availability of rangeland resources continues to drive atypical livestock migration within and outside of the livelihood zone. According to field reports, an unusually high number of livestock from the Northeastern Pastoral areas of Mandera have migrated into parts of Garissa and Tana River, southern Ethiopia, and western Somalia. In Isiolo, a significant number of livestock have moved to the southern areas along the Meru-Isiolo border, while others have migrated into Laikipia, Meru, and Tana River. At the same time, livestock from Wajir, Samburu, and Marsabit have migrated into pockets of Isiolo such as the Kom triangle where there were slightly better pastures and browse. With the constrained availability of forage and water resources, most livestock that have migrated in past seasons have not returned. Although there are no resource-based conflicts within the livelihood zone, tensions along the Isiolo-Wajir, Wajir-Mandera, Isiolo-Meru, and Isiolo-Garissa borders continue to limit access to pastures and water, especially around the Kom triangle in northern Isiolo.

    Staple food prices are atypically high, driven by a high demand for food for livestock and human consumption, increasing maize prices from regional sources in Ethiopia, and high marketing costs due to high fuel prices. In Mandera, maize prices are 37 percent above the five-year average in February, while in Isiolo and Wajir maize prices are 93 to 97 percent above the five-year average. Conversely, livestock sale values are atypically low due to the poor body conditions and increased sales as households seek to maximize income and minimize drought-related losses. According to NDMA sentinel site data, the price of a mature medium-sized goat is 17 to 23 percent below the five-year average. The above-average maize prices and below-average livestock prices are limiting household purchasing power, with the goat-to-maize terms-of-trade 40 to 62 percent below the five-year average, and 14 to 57 percent lower than in February 2022. The terms-of-trade are also significantly lower than last year in Isiolo and Wajir (Figure 7). Across the livelihood zone, the sale of a goat can purchase enough maize for around 6 to 9 days of the basic kilocalorie needs for a household of six if they only ate maize.

    Figure 7

    Goat-to-maize terms-of-trade, Wajir market
    Chart showing goat-to-maize terms-of-trade, Wajir market. Terms of trade are well below the five-year average and last year.

    Ongoing inter-annual cash assistance programs and planned and irregular food distributions are likely mitigating the emergence of worse food security outcomes across the livelihood zone. In February, cash transfers from NDMA’s HSNP and other humanitarian partners, and food assistance, were distributed to around 26 to 65 percent of the population (Table 3). The assistance is distributed as monthly, bi-monthly, or single payments. At current maize prices, HSNP cash transfers of 5,400 KES (42.07 USD) every two months can purchase seven to eight days of monthly kilocalorie needs. Additional interventions include water trucking, borehole rehabilitation, cattle destocking programs, and the transfer of animal feed.

    Table 3
    Reported cash transfers and food assistance in February 2023
    Number of households55,08611,59458,371
    Percent of population 652645

    Source: NDMA

    According to the SMART survey results in January 2023, the prevalence of acute malnutrition has declined since July 2022, likely due to the ongoing emergency cash transfers, mass screenings, and the scale up of health and nutrition outreach. However, acute malnutrition remains high due to limited household milk consumption, and overall lower access to food and reduced dietary diversity. In January 2023, a SMART survey reported that acute malnutrition declined from Critical levels in July 2022 to Serious levels in Wajir, while remaining Critical in Mandera and Isiolo. Results from the representative January 2023 SMART surveys showed that 29 to 47 percent of households in the livelihood zone were facing moderate hunger per the HHS, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, while less than 3 percent of households reported severe hunger indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). To cope with the high food prices and lack of income, many households are engaging in consumption-based coping strategies such as limiting the portion sizes, relying on less expensive foods, reducing the number of meals eaten in a day, and restricting the consumption by adults for small children to eat. Households are also reporting livelihood based coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with some reporting employing coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4), such as the sale of last female animals. The convergence of these data and an analysis of levels of current food and income relative to typical suggests that Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) are present in Mandera and Wajir, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes present in Isiolo due to the impact of ongoing humanitarian assistance and contributing factors.


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Livestock that had migrated into parts of Garissa, Tana River, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and western parts of Somalia and Southern parts of Ethiopia are likely to remain there throughout the scenario period. Additionally, a significant proportion of the herds that were left behind previously are also likely to be migrated into these atypical areas.
    • Resource-based conflicts and inter-tribal clashes are expected in hotspot areas along the Isiolo-Wajir, Isiolo-Garissa, and Garissa-Wajir borders during the July to September lean season as rangeland resources decline. The conflicts are likely to render grazing areas inaccessible and result in market disruptions.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projection, maize prices are projected to follow seasonal trends but be above average throughout the scenario period, ranging between 35 to 55 percent above the five-year average. The above-average prices will be driven by high transport and marketing costs and high local demand, especially during the July to September lean season. Goat prices will likely follow seasonal trends but be 6 to 17 percent below the five-year average due to the effects of previous successive below-average seasons that have kept body conditions well below normal, and the forecast below-average long rains season that is likely to have little impact on body conditions and sale values.
    • The regular cash transfers under the HSNP are planned, funded, and likely in the northeastern pastoral areas of Mandera and Wajir throughout the scenario period. Around 41,430 households will receive 5,400 KES bi-monthly through September. Between February and September, WFP will also provide cash transfers of 6,500 KES per households to 32,634 households in the livelihood zone under the Linda Jamii Program.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Between February and May, the forecast average to below average March to May long rains will drive below average regeneration of pastures. Livestock trekking distances to watering points from grazing areas will remain atypically high due to the expected below average recharge of open surface water sources such as water pans and dams. Additionally, the improvements in forage availability will be short-lived and will not trigger livestock migration back into the typical wet season grazing areas, maintaining low household milk availability and incomes from milk sales. At the onset of the long rains, livestock deaths from hypothermia and pneumonic diseases are likely due to the poor livestock body conditions. Livestock birth rates will remain very low, similar to past below-average seasons, keeping household livestock holdings at less than 50 percent of normal numbers. Sale values of livestock will increase slightly but remain below average despite slight improvements in livestock body conditions during the long rains. To earn income, households will increase their reliance on alternative income sources such as remittances from better-off relatives in urban areas, non-livestock related casual labor, petty trade, and the sale of charcoal and firewood. However, increased competition will limit poor households’ capacity to expand their income through these sources. With staple food prices expected to be unusually high, household purchasing power will remain well below average. To cope, households will continue employing consumption and livelihood based coping strategies. Overall, households are expected to remain dependent on ongoing planned, funded, and likely humanitarian assistance from the government and humanitarian partners for food and income, driving Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. With constrained access to food and low household milk availability, and with likely outbreaks of water-borne diseases during the rainy season, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is likely to remain between Serious and Critical levels across the livelihood zone.

    Between June and September, the lean season is expected to begin earlier than normal, in June, due to the compounded impacts of the drought. Migrated livestock are expected to remain far from homesteads, with the trekking distances for remaining livestock likely to remain well above normal. The long trekking distances are likely to maintain unseasonably low livestock body conditions. Increased and ongoing migration of livestock in search of forage and water, along with poor body conditions, will keep household milk production and consumption low, along with limited to no income from milk sales. Additionally, competition for grazing rights and access to watering points are expected to trigger conflicts with host communities resulting in displacements and the possible loss of lives and livestock. Household incomes from the sale of livestock will be below average due to the poor body conditions, reduced demand, and reduced sales due to the low livestock holdings. To narrow income deficits, households are likely to increase their reliance on income from the sale of firewood and charcoal, as well as remittances from better-off relatives in urban areas.  With reduced access to income and above-average staple food prices, an additional number of poor households are expected to employ increasingly severe consumption-coping strategies such as restricting the consumption by adults for small children to eat and skipping meals, with the most affected households dropping out of pastoralism and being destitute. However, planned and likely national safety nets and humanitarian assistance programs are likely to help minimize large food consumption gaps. With the presence of humanitarian assistance, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist in Mandera and Wajir. In Isiolo, despite the lack of evidence of planned, funded and likely humanitarian assistance, the below average long rains are likely to slow the deterioration of rangeland resources especially in dry season grazing areas such as the Kom triangle, and livestock productivity, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In all three areas, worst-affected poor households who have lost most of their assets are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. 


    Tropical Livestock Units are livestock numbers converted to a common unit. Camels = 1.1; cattle=0.5; sheep and goats=0.1; pigs=0.2; and chickens=0.01

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top