Low rainfall triggers alarm at Kenya food crisis

Published on 16 December 2005

WFP warns that the number of people needing food aid in Kenya would rise considerably from the current 1.1 million to possibly as many as 2.5 million because of the failure of the short rains in many eastern and northern districts of Kenya.

WFP warned today that the number of people needing food aid in Kenya would rise considerably from the current 1.1 million to possibly as many as 2.5 million because of the failure of the short rains in many eastern and northern districts of Kenya.

The lack of rainfall is likely to prompt a serious food security crisis over the first half of 2006, according to the Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM), which comprises UN agencies including WFP, non-governmental organizations, donors and government officials.

Livestock deaths

We need immediate action to avoid the loss of people’s assets and their lives

Tesema Negash, WFP Country Director

The KFSM said the October to December short rains were extremely bad in northeastern pastoral districts and rainfall in eastern marginal agricultural areas was erratic, patchy and 30 percent below normal overall.

Significant livestock deaths have been reported because of a lack of water, pasture and browse.

According to the KFSM, this represents an early warning because it was extraordinary for camels and donkeys to be dying in large numbers in the north and east immediately after the short rains.

Sounding the alarm

“Until our field assessments are completed in January, we won’t know exactly how many more people will require emergency food aid, but in areas suffering from successive droughts, food security is already critical,” said WFP Country Director Tesema Negash.

“We are sounding the alarm now because of what the early warning indicators are all showing – a rapidly deteriorating situation. We need immediate action to avoid the loss of people’s assets and their lives,” said Negash.

WFP estimates that the numbers in need of emergency food aid could rise as high as 2.5 million people in the coming months, from the 1.1 million currently receiving general food distributions.

Limited pledges

“WFP has so far received very limited donor pledges to our appeal, extended in September by six months and US$25 million to assist up to 1.2 million people in Kenya. Now the numbers are bound only to go up. We must receive donations as early as possible in 2006 or it will be too late for many people,” he added.

WFP’s US$127 million Emergency Operation to assist drought-affected people in Kenya now runs from August 2004 until the end of June 2006; to date there has a shortfall of US$46 million.

The KFSM said other assistance was urgently needed to tackle the water and health crisis as well as programmes to buy up livestock to stop herders from selling their assets at low prices.

Crop failure

In an alert to donors, the KFSM said that agricultural production in the east for marginal farmers depended on the short rains. Crop failure because of two successive poor rainy seasons this year would therefore require emergency food aid to be provided at least through the first half of 2006.

The Government of Kenya and its partners plan a food security assessment of 22 drought-affected districts in January to determine the extra numbers of people in need of food aid.

The KFSM said the numbers would expand as households failed to cope with the impact of the drought.

Somalia

Launched by the WFP and the Government in July 2004 after poor rains in eastern, southern and parts of northern Kenya, the drought emergency operation was extended in September for six months for 1.2 million people.

The deyr short rains this year in neighbouring southern Somalia are also failing, requiring WFP to increase the numbers of people in need of food aid.