More than 50,000 Tana River County residents are staring at death because of the ongoing drought, Governor Hussein Dado has warned.
Mr Dado said the figure could rise to 90,000 if the dry spell continues.
The county boss appealed to the government, donors and well-wishers to help residents of Tana Delta, Tana North and Tana River sub-counties.
“Let us not wait until deaths are announced. The devolved government has done all it can with the little resources it has,” he said.
Mr Dado added that such a drought was experienced in 1984 when residents of Bura and Galole constituencies abandoned their homes and went to Garsen. He said his administration had suspended projects and diverted funds to fighting hunger.
“River Tana is drying up. There are carcasses all over and the situation is worrying. We’ve distributed food to families in Bangal, Hirimani, Mbalambala, Bura, Charidede, Assa and Kone,” he said.
In the North Rift, animal prices have dropped drastically in the last few weeks.
At Nginyang’ market in Baringo’s Tiaty Sub-County, a cow which used to sell at Sh30,000 in November now goes for Sh10,000 while a goat sells for Sh2,000, down from Sh5,000.
“Our people have no alternative but to sell their animals at throwaway prices. We fear for the worst should the dry spell persist,” said Ribkwo/Kositei Ward Rep Daniel Tuwit.
A two kilogramme tin of maize goes for Sh120. Many residents have migrated to Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties in search of food.
“Pastoralists are moving to Lochakula, Narion and Kulel on the border with Turkana East and East Pokot sub-counties and this could lead to bloody conflicts,” Tirioko MCA Stephen Maklap said.
Officials say more than 100,000 people in the North Rift are at risk of starvation. A bag of maize is going for Sh3,400, up from Sh2,800 while that of wheat is Sh3,600, up from 3,200.
Water PS Fred Segor said the government had set aside Sh221 million for water trucking in areas hard hit by the drought.
According to Prof Segor, the drought is very severe in many areas and the food crisis is alarming.
“The government is providing relief food and water to schools,” Prof Segor said.
He called on pastoralists not to wait until the last minute but dispose of their animals.
A report by Kenya Food Security Steering Group and Early Warning Systems Network shows that some of the most affected counties are Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garrisa, Mandera and Wajir.
In Kisii County, rivers are drying, leading to severe water shortages. Water levels at rivers Gucha and Kegati are at an all-time low.
County water executive Moiro Omari told residents to brace for tougher times ahead should the rains fail. He said rationing would begin next month.
Mr Justus Misiani, a Birongo Ward resident, said the family well, which also serves neighbours, was drying.
“We wake up very early before the queue gets long. There is no usually water after 8am,” Mr Misiani said.
Agriculture executive Vincent Sagwe said food prices would inevitably shoot up due to shortages and urged farmers to plant drought-resistant crops.
The acute shortage of water is also being experienced in Bomet County.
Governor Isaac Ruto said his administration would deliver water to residents in the worst affected areas.
Most springs, wells, pans, dams and boreholes across the county have dried up. Water volumes in rivers Nyangores, Amalo, Chemosit and Kipsonoi have reduced drastically.
Bomet County Commissioner Bernard Leparmarai asked residents not to sell their maize, wheat and other food. Mr Leparmarai said he had asked the government to supply area farmers with subsidised seeds and fertilisers.
In Trans Mara Sub-County of Narok, Sh108 million from the Equalisation Fund will be used to construct dams in areas experiencing water shortage.
Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella said the prolonged drought meant that there was need to invest in water infrastructure. Mr Konchella said the dams would be built in Ang’ata, Sitoka and Osupuko.
“Every area has been allocated Sh36 million,” the MP said in Lolgorian on Saturday.
Report by Galgalo Bocha, Wycliff Kipsang,