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NAIROBI – The United Nations World Food Programme today hailed the European Commission for donating Euros 5.05 million (US$5.98 million) in cash to help provide food aid for 3.5 million people in northern and eastern Kenya, saying this was the sort of quick, flexible response needed as the drought worsens.

A shortage of contributions has forced WFP to cut vegetable oil from the food ration for three million people in Kenya from March. Only limited amounts of corn-soya blend (CSB), which is especially beneficial for malnourished children and nursing mothers, and pulses will be distributed in the worst-affected areas.

“This cash contribution from the European Union through its Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid ECHO, enables us to move cereals donated by the Government of Kenya to drought-stricken areas, so provides a very timely response for millions of people,” said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash.

“We urgently need similar generous pledges, especially cash, to enable us to keep providing cereals and restore CSB, vegetable oil and pulses to provide a full ration,” said Negash. “If these cuts continue into April and May, they will only worsen the already perilous nutritional situation in the hardest-hit areas.”

WFP welcomed the first contribution by the European Commission for drought-affected people in Kenya since an emergency operation began in August 2004. The operation was expanded in February to cover three million people in the north and east and 500,000 children to be fed through a schoolfeeding programme.

“I am very glad that the European Commission stepped forward at this very difficult time of need for Kenya. I hope more new donors will respond before the situation worsens,” Negash said. “Hundreds of thousands of livestock have died since December in northern Kenya and now camels are perishing because water and browse have run out, so more and more people need food aid to stay alive.”

WFP needs US$225 million to feed 3.5 million people from February 2006 until February 2007, but has so far, including the EU contribution, has received US$74.6 million, leaving a 66.9 percent shortfall.

In addition to the EC, contributors to WFP’s Emergency Operation in Kenya this year are: the United States (US$29 million), UK Department for International Development (US$19 million), Kenya (US$13 million), Australia (US$1.46 million) Ireland (US$1.4 5million), Denmark (US$1.3 million), Austria (US$700,000), Italy (US$606,000) Belgium (US$605,000), Luxembourg (US$296,000), New Zealand (US$274,000), Turkey (US$200,000), Private (US$22,600), Israel (US$17,000).