U.S. Water News Online
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenya does not have enough food aid to
last through the month, endangering the lives of 3.5 million people,
relief officials said.
Officials said Kenya needs $245 million to provide food, water and
other assistance to those people hit by a drought that has affected
parts of the country for a fifth year running.
Malnutrition had reached emergency levels in the most affected
areas, according to Tesema Negash, country director for the United
Nations' World Food Program.
Failure to quickly provide money for the Kenyan aid effort could
lead to large-scale loss of life and the worst humanitarian crisis
since the country gained independence from Britain in 1963, according
to the British charity Oxfam.
The January assessment by Kenya's government, U.N. and other aid
agencies showed that 396,500 metric tons of food aid worth about $221
million will be required to provide food to the 3.5 million people,
Since January, the U.N. food aid agency has received 60,000 metric
tons of cereals from Kenya's government as well as 14,400 metric tons
of maize and 10,800 metric tons of other commodities from the U.S.
government, Tesema said.
"We are now looking for cash to move the food," Tesema said. "And
it is critical that WFP be able to respond immediately to the food
needs of Kenyans who have depleted their own resources."
The areas hit hardest by the drought-induced food shortages are in
the arid and semi-arid northern, northeastern and eastern Kenya, John
Munyes, minister of state for special programs, told U.N. officials,
diplomats, aid workers and journalists.
The crisis hit as Kenya forecast a surplus harvest of 62,500
metric tons of maize, mainly from western Kenya. However, those in
the eastern and northern drought-stricken areas cannot afford to buy
food from other regions.
Farmers struggling to find better prices for their surplus
harvests in western Kenya were exporting the food to neighboring
The livelihoods of cattle-herding communities across Kenya "are
severely threatened as the very basis of their food security system,
livestock, are dying in unprecedented numbers due to lack of water,
browse and pasture," according to the assessment report. "Thousands
of head of cattle have already died and many thousands more may
succumb, as the effects of drought intensify."
Farmers in eastern Kenya have seen crops wilt and die. "In some
locations, seeds never germinated because not one drop of rainfall
fell," according to the report.
"Families have depleted most of their disposable resources such as
maize and livestock, among others. They are now more vulnerable to
food insecurity," Munyes said.
Drought has also hit neighboring Somalia, Ethiopia and Tanzania,
making it increasingly difficult for Kenyans to find water and
pasture in those areas, he said.
"International and regional response to the drought has therefore
to consider a regional perspective to avoid large-scale population
movements from areas where there is no response to areas where
assistance is being provided," Munyes said.
"Our analysis suggests that in some areas aid is only getting to a
third of those who need it. What is crystal clear is that if donors
don't rapidly fund the new U.N. appeal, the situation which is
already critical, will get much worse," said Gezahegn Kebede, head of
Oxfam in Kenya.
This is because the cows are in terrible shape as a result of food
and water shortages. Also, people in the region are too poor to pay
for the animals, which makes local demand weak.
In Belgium, the European Union said it was giving a further $6
million in emergency humanitarian aid to millions of victims affected
by drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The EU was also readying
another $48 million for use if suffering intensifies in the region.
The aim of the aid is to help provide water, food and health care
to 5.6 million people in the Horn of Africa, the commission said
"The 'long rains' are due in May, but if they don't come, we could
be facing a terrible situation, for which we must be prepared," EU
Development Commissioner Louis Michel said in a statement.
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