Kenya needs aid to help 3.5 million hit by drought

Kenya needs more than €200m to provide food, water and other assistance to 3.5 million hit by a drought that has affected parts of the country for a fifth year running, officials said today, warning there is not enough aid to last through next month.

The January assessment by Kenya’s government, UN and other aid agencies showed that 396,500 tonnes of food aid will be required to provide food to 3.5 million people, said Tesema Negash, country director for the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Since January, the UN food aid agency has received 60,000 tonnes of cereals from Kenya’s government as well as 14,400 tonnes of maize and 10,800 tonnes of other commodities from the US 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, north-eastern and eastern Kenya, John Munyes, minister of state for special programmes, told UN officials, diplomats, aid workers and journalists.

The crisis hit as Kenya forecast a surplus harvest of 62,500 tonnes 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 are exporting the food to neighbouring countries.

UN’s Teseme said malnutrition had reached emergency levels in the most affected areas.

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.”

Drought has also hit neighbouring Somalia, Ethiopia and Tanzania, making it increasingly difficult for Kenyans to find water and pasture in those areas.

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