Marsabit, Mandera, and Turkana counties are suffering from an alarming drought.
The National Drought Management Authority in its early warning bulletin said the ‘alarming category’ means immediate action is needed to ensure counties do not reach the emergency level and require humanitarian aid.
The Famine Early Warning System said the situation is expected to get worse.
It called on governments, agencies and NGOs to scale up and sustain interventions to support food and livelihood security, nutrition and health and access to water through late 2021 and possibly early 2022.
It warned of lower household incomes from failed crops and dying livestock.
Wajir, Tana River, Samburu, Garissa and Isiolo counties are also in drought alert status.
West Pokot, Tharaka Nithi, Taita Taveta, Narok and Kajiado counties are in the normal drought status, owing to substantial rains received in April.
In April, the government warned of looming drought in some parts of Marsabit, Tana River, Isiolo and Turkana counties.
Government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said more than 1.4 million Kenyans are at risk of hunger and starvation due to poor rains during the long rains season.
The Meteorological Department confirmed that expected rainfall is likely to be depressed. Only a few areas in Nyanza, Western, Central, parts of Rift Valley and Eastern are likely to receive above-average rainfall.
“Other regions are expected to receive below-average rainfall or none. These include Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, Marsabit and Tana River counties,” the Met said.
The Famine Early Warning System Network also warned of persistent drought in Ethiopia and Somalia.
The alert released on May 19, showed that food assistance needs are sharply increasing in the Horn of Africa, driven by consecutive below-average rainfall seasons in late 2020 and early 2021.
Given the imminent end of the season and vulnerability of the Horn to crop failure and livestock losses, the recent increase in rainfall in late April and early May is likely inadequate to prevent acute food insecurity.
The FEWS NET report said satellite reports show vegetation is under severe stress in many parts of the region.
“Long-range forecasts indicate La Niña-like conditions are highly likely to reemerge in late 2021, raising the likelihood of a third consecutive season of below-average rainfall,” it said.
The report said despite moderate to heavy rainfall in late April and early May, there was insufficient time for recovery of crop yields, livestock reproduction, and milk production.
Rapid accumulation of heavy rain within a short timeframe raises the risk of localized flash and riverine floods.
Crop losses from the June-August harvests will likely be significant.
“They drive deficits in household income from agricultural labor and crop sales, reductions in household food stocks and a decline in household purchasing power,” the report read.
FEWS NET was established by the USAID to provide early warning and analysis of food insecurity in 30 countries and help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises.