In 2008, an estimated 1.3 million people in rural areas and 3.5 – 4 million in urban areas were food insecure. An estimated 150,000 persons residing predominantly in high-potential areas of the Rift Valley province were extremely food insecure following the post-election crisis (FEWS NET 2009). Approximately 100,000 more children have become malnourished as a result of the food crisis (Save the Children 2009).
Failed short rains in 2008 and previous three to four agricultural seasons has contributed to exacerbating food insecurity in the country. Marginal agricultural households, agro-pastoralists, pastoralists, and urban poor have been particularly affected. The marginal agricultural households in the southeastern and coastal lowlands are worst-hit as 70 percent of their annual harvest is derived from short-rains seasons (FEWS NET 2009). High food prices have also made 75 percent of the pastoralist communities food poor due to dramatic increase in cereal prices ranging from 50 – 80 percent as compared to other commodity prices. Amongst urban households, 40 percent were highly food insecure. As a result of the crisis, there has been an increase in school dropout rate, food riot incidents, and crime rate (WFP 2008).
Many factors have contributed to the rise in local food prices. Kenya relies heavily on maize imports from South Africa, Italy, USA, and the COMESA region, which have been severely affected by high food prices. Moreover, overall inflation in the country was high as 32 percent in 2008. High fuel prices have created additional pressures on food and non-food prices, despite stagnant wage rates (WFP 2008). As a result, rice prices have increased by 165 percent, wheat 88 percent, soybean 85 percent, and maize by 59 percent since early 2007.
The government and other international organizations have introduced several immediate and resilience measures to respond to the crisis. Import duties on maize imports have been removed, and any maize exports have been banned. Sales tax on rice and bread have been taken off. Fertilizer prices have been reduced by the National Cereals and Produce Board. Wheat import tax has been reduced from 35 to 10 percent, and any exports of maize have been banned (WFP 2009). Moreover, hot lunches and fortified nutritious porridge is provided to about 60,000 school and pres – school children (WFP 2008).