Food aid running out for millions of Kenyans in need

Published on 19 July 2006

WFP warns that it isrunning out of emergency food aid for millions of people in Kenya made destitute by drought and appeals for urgent new contributions to prevent malnutrition rates rising as the long dry season sets in.

WFP warned today that that it was fast running out of emergency food aid for millions of people in Kenya affected by drought, and appealed for urgent new contributions to prevent malnutrition rates rising as the long dry season sets in.

“At the moment we simply have no cereals to distribute in September,” said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash.

“We urgently need donors to step forward and help millions of pastoralists still struggling to recover from recurrent drought.

Critical time

In Kenya’s pastoral and marginal agricultural areas, the July-October dry season is a critical time. Though the April-June rains were adequate in much of the country, they were erratic in many arid pastoralist areas of the north and northwest where nomadic herders this year have lost much of their livestock.

Donors have been very generous so far this year, but the rains didn’t end the misery

Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash

In Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu and Wajir districts rains were insufficient. Even in areas with average precipitation, livestock had still not fully recovered from drought by the season’s end.

WFP is feeding a total of 3.6 million people in 25 of Kenya’s 70 districts because of drought – 3.1 million people receive monthly rations and 535,000 children are given school meals.

Misery

“Donors have been very generous so far this year, but the rains didn’t end the misery of those who lost all their assets – their livestock – or don’t have enough surviving animals to support themselves,” Negash said.

“Continued support is vital. In many places malnutrition rates are already high, and will undoubtedly rise if we have to reduce rations.”

In March and April, a shortage of contributions forced WFP to cut vegetable oil from the rations of 3 million people.

“Cash contributions are especially welcome to help meet the urgent need for cereal stock which can be bought regionally, and thus arrive more quickly,” Negash added.

Impact assessment

WFP, the Government of Kenya, other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations will conduct a comprehensive food security assessment in all drought-affected districts in July and August to gauge the impact of the long rains on livelihoods and determine emergency food and other needs until the end of the year.

Despite the rains, WFP’s partner NGOs report that pastoralist families are still emerging from the bush in search of food aid in districts such as Garissa.

Many pastoralists have surviving herds that are too small to support their families, according to a June report by WFP, the US Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) and the Government of Kenya. Their livelihoods will be in jeopardy in the coming months without emergency food aid.

Precarious position

The joint Kenya Food Security Update for July notes that in some areas, such as Marsabit, households rely on relief food for 60 percent of their needs, and predicts that pastoral districts in the northwest where rains were mediocre could have an exceptionally difficult dry season.

In some of the drought affected southeastern lowlands, farming families are also in a precarious position, with crop losses and higher than normal prices compounding their difficulties.

Critical

The short rains season, from October to December, will be critical.

Even if water is available, the quality is poor in some areas. In parts of Mandera, NGOs are trucking water to pastoralists because sources were contaminated by livestock carcasses; in Samburu, Marsabit and parts of Wajir, dry season water trucking is already underway.

Acute malnutrition rates among children under five are still well above the emergency threshold of 15 percent in many districts. A recent survey reportedly found global acute malnutrition rates of 30 percent in Marsabit district, underscoring the cumulative effects of drought and hardship.