Nairobi - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched an emergency appeal for US$82 million for immediate food assistance to 2.3 million people affected by drought in Kenya.
The announcement follows an appeal on July 14 by President Mwai Kibaki, who called for international emergency assistance until at least the end of January 2005 for people struggling with food shortages in the rural areas of Coast, Eastern, North Eastern and Rift Valley provinces.
"You only have to visit these parts of Kenya to see with your own eyes how in many cases the maize crop has wilted under the sun after the failure of the long rains in May this year - it is now essentially useless. People are struggling to provide enough food for their families," said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash.
This year's long rains were poor in much of eastern and southern Kenya and in some northern areas. A dry spell from late April to May came at a critical stage in the crop development. Scattered showers in early June were too late for a significant recovery, resulting in near-total crop failures in many parts of Coast and Eastern provinces. Pasture and grazing are already poor in much of North Eastern province and parts of Rift Valley.
If the short rains are poor later in the year, an additional one million people will require food assistance in 2005, bringing the total needing food assistance in Kenya in 2005 to 3.3 million.
Grain prices have almost doubled in most parts of the country while livestock prices have declined significantly. People are increasingly producing charcoal and firewood to raise money for food. There are also unusually high sales of breeding stocks of cattle, sheep and goats.
Many people are missing out on meals to preserve food stocks and children are skipping school to assist their parents in the hunt for food.
Wild animals are also leaving their game-park homes because of a shortage of water and are damaging vital crops.
WFP is appealing for assistance to 1.8 million people affected by the drought as well as over half a million vulnerable children. Under the emergency operation, the school feeding programme is to be expanded from the one million primary and pre-primary children in Kenya who already receive lunches from food supplied by WFP to include another 544,000 children in arid and semi-arid areas.
For many children in these areas, school lunches are the only meal that they eat in an entire day. School feeding reduces the number of children who drop out of classes to look for food or work, especially in times of hardship. It also cuts malnutrition and boosts school attendance and educational performance.
Before President Kibaki's appeal, WFP and other aid agencies had scaled up their programmes in the worst-affected districts, including Marsabit in the north. The Government of Kenya has also been distributing food in many areas, but its resources are running out.
"We are facing a crisis on a massive scale which will spiral out of control at great human cost if we do not act now," said Negash. "For many Kenyans, two poor seasons in a row will spell disaster if they do not receive assistance on time."
The last WFP Emergency Operation because of drought in Kenya ran from March 2000 to October 2002 and at its height in 2001 fed a total of 4.4 million people, including one million school children. This was considered to be Kenya's worst drought in 40 years.
The numbers in need of assistance are based on assessments by the Kenya Food Security Meeting, which consists of government ministries, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations and donors.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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