Kenya rains reduce number needing food aid to nearly 3 million people

Published on 27 September 2006

Rains have reduced the number of Kenyans in need of food aid because of drought to nearly 3 million people from 3.5 million, the Government of Kenya and WFP has said.

Rains have reduced the number of Kenyans in need of food aid because of drought to nearly 3 million people from 3.5 million, the Government of Kenya and WFP has said.

The numbers in need have gone down but that is no consolation or help to those who remain victims of the drought

Denise Brown, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Kenya

WFP needs US$44 million to continue feeding them for six months.

In a joint statement, the Government of Kenya and WFP stressed that the need for food aid was still great particularly among nomadic herders in the North and Northeast who had lost all their livestock – their only assets – in the drought so were unable to rebuild their herds.

Cause for concern

It was a cause for concern that donor contributions had slowed considerably in recent months.

They said a month-long assessment into the impact of the February-June long rains in Kenya showed 2.41 million people still needed general food distributions because of drought until March 2007, and the number of children being fed at school would remain at 550,000 for the same period.

“It is good news that the rains have reduced the numbers, but this mustn’t overshadow the fact that nearly 3 million people are relying on our help because of the damage done by this terrible drought,” said John Munyes, Minister of State in charge of Special Projects in the Office of the President.

Help still needed

“These people are still suffering and look to the Government of Kenya and WFP to provide them with food. It would be an absolute tragedy if they are abandoned now after we managed with the generosity of donors to help them survive even when all their animals had perished,” he said.

“One rainy season isn’t enough to end this crisis. These people need all our help,” he added.

“The numbers in need have gone down but that is no consolation or help to those who remain victims of the drought,” said Denise Brown, WFP’s Emergency Coordinator in Kenya.

“In particular, WFP now has a big problem with a shortage of cereals, which make up most of the food ration. We will completely run out of cereals from October and through November.”

Shipment and aid

“A U.S. shipment of cereals is due to arrive in December, but the damage will have been done in the preceding two months – unless we urgently receive cash donations that will allow us to buy cereals locally to bridge the gap, and at the same time support Kenyan growers,” she added.

WFP has so far received US$155 million or 69 percent of the US$225 million needed for its Emergency Operation because of drought from March this year until March 2007.

At the height of the drought this year, 3.5 million people received food aid each month. WFP is US$44 million short of the funds it needs to feed 2.4 million people with general food distributions from September to March 2007, as well as feed the 550,000 school children in drought-stricken areas.

Short-term help

The assessment by the Government, WFP, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations found the rains varied in their performance from fair to good in the northeast, coast and parts of the south to 50-75 percent below normal in northwestern and northern parts of Kenya.

But it noted that communities affected by the drought still required urgent short-term assistance to recover their livelihoods and longer-term help to reduce their vulnerability.

It said 19 of the 26 drought-affected districts received good rains but they were uneven in some areas.

Lengthy regeneration process

Some pasture and browse would regenerate but it would take time to replace the livestock lost in four successive seasons of drought.

It said that families who had lost all their livestock had to abandon herding and were now just squatting on the edges of urban centres.

Needs

The greatest needs are in nine pastoralist districts, where the number of people receiving general food distributions will be cut from September from 1.3 million to 1.2 million.

In marginal agricultural districts, the number of beneficiaries is reduced from 1.4 million to 1 million.

In coastal districts, the numbers receiving food rations were reduced by 55 percent.

The assessment report noted that 84 percent of Kenya’s land area is arid or semi-arid and chronic poverty is high. In addition, drought will inevitably return.

It said a commitment to developing such areas was a humanitarian obligation and economic imperative and long-term development was needed both to alleviate poverty and mitigate the damage done by drought.