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Impacts of floods and COVID-19 drives an increase in the food insecure population

  • Key Message Update
  • Kenya
  • May 2020
Impacts of floods and COVID-19 drives an increase in the food insecure population

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In May, an atypically high number of households are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Kenya. Poor urban households dependent on casual wage labor or work in the informal sector continue to face difficulty purchasing their minimum food needs due to the impacts of COVID-19 movement restrictions on economic activity. In some rural areas, recent floods, localized market closures, slowdowns in food supply chains resulting in high prices, and the absence of school meals are negatively affecting household food access. On the area level, however, the above-average long rains season is broadly beneficial for livestock and crop production and continues to drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    • As of May 26, 2020, the Kenya Ministry of Health has confirmed 1,348 cases of COVID-19 with 891 active cases and 52 deaths across 27 counties. Restrictions such as a nightly curfew and movement in and out of Nairobi Metropolitan Area, Kilifi, Kwale, Mandera, and Mombasa counties remain in place until at least June 6. Additional movement restrictions in and out of the Eastleigh neighbourhood in Nairobi and Old Town in Mombasa are in place due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

    • According to satellite-derived data, cumulative March to May rainfall broadly ranges from 120 to 200 percent of average across the country. Localized areas of Turkana, Wajir, Isiolo, Laikipia, Kwale, Kitui, and Tana River have received 200 to 400 percent of average rainfall. Recent heavy rains led to floods in 36 counties, where over 800,000 people were affected, including 237 fatalities and over 116,000 displaced. The floods also led to loss of property and livestock, considerable damage to crops, and disruption of agricultural activities in high and medium maize production areas. Worst-affected areas include Tana River, Mandera, Marsabit, and Turkana. With Lake Victoria reaching its highest water level on the historical record and a high likelihood of above normal rainfall in June, there is a threat of additional flooding from overflowing dams and river backflow. There also remains an increased risk for waterborne diseases, evidenced by an outbreak of cholera in Marsabit and Turkana and ICPALD/FAO’s Rift Valley Fever alert.

    • More desert locust hopper bands have been detected in northwest Kenya where control operations are ongoing. Mature swarms are still present in northwest and central Kenya, but damage to rangeland or crops are localized. Following a revised appeal for 32.1 million USD to curb the spread of the desert locusts, 61 percent of the requested funds have been received. The impacts of the desert locusts will likely continue to be mitigated given the ongoing procurement of necessary equipment for ground and air operations. However, efforts are likely to continue to be limited by insecurity in some areas along the Kenya-Somali border, most notably in Mandera county.

    • Despite the floods and desert locust infestation, the above-average rains continue to improve livestock production and crop growth prospects on the national level. Remote sensing imagery shows above-normal vegetation conditions across most of the country in mid-May, though localized areas of below-normal conditions are present. While late-planted crops (early to mid-April) in parts of the eastern and southeastern marginal agricultural lowlands are likely to be water-stressed in coming weeks with the end of the rainfall season, impacts may be locally significant but offset by above-average yields in terms of net national maize production.  Most early planted maize crops are in good condition and in the reproductive to maturity stages.

    • Maize grain prices are being impacted by COVID-19 movement restrictions. In April, maize prices in urban reference markets ranged from 11 to 22 percent above the five-year average driven by delayed supply of cross-border imports from neighboring countries due to border restrictions and mandatory COVID-19 screenings of truck drivers. In Tharaka, Kilifi, Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera, above-average maize prices were 6 to 22 percent above their five-year averages primarily driven by declines in household stocks, COVID-19 related delays in the supply chain, and increased demand due to higher prices of substitutes. Across the rest of country, prices were mostly average except in Kitui, Makueni, and Turkana, where maize prices were 6 to 21 percent below average given proximity to cross-border source markets and available household stocks. 

    • Livestock prices in pastoral areas currently range from 19 to 51 percent above average due to good body conditions and reduced supply to the markets as livestock owners aim to replenish their herds. As a result, the goat-to-maize terms of trade is currently eight percent above average in Mandera and 28 to 56 percent above average across all other markets; however, the goat-to-maize terms of trade are near average in Wajir.



    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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