WFP WARNS OF KENYA DROUGHT DISASTER; FOOD AID RUNS OUT IN WEEKS
NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme gave a stark warning today of a humanitarian disaster in Kenya because of drought, saying that WFP would run out of food aid within weeks for 2.5 million people in the drought-stricken north and east unless new donations were received immediately.
"Since our last appeal in December, we have received very little against the growing needs," said WFP Executive Director James Morris. "We don't have enough for the 1.2 million people we are currently feeding, let alone the expected increase to 2.5 million or more in February."
"We are moving whatever food we have to the north and the east. But our stocks are very low and insufficient for February distributions. Without new donations, we will only be able to feed a fraction of these 1.2 million people just when we should be more than doubling that number," said WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash.
"We have warned and appealed for months for contributions to save lives in drought-hit Kenya," Negash added. "We are in the midst of an emergency. If we receive no new donations now, it is extremely likely that Kenya will be hit by a humanitarian disaster in the months to come."
WFP requires some 350,000 metric tons of food valued at US$238 million to feed the anticipated 2.5 million people in Kenya this year, but is already short US$43 million to feed just 1.2 million now.
The Kenya drought is part of the latest crisis sweeping across the Horn of Africa with 1.4 million people needing emergency food aid from WFP in southern Somalia, 1.5 million people in Ethiopia and 60,000 in Djibouti. Pastoralists have therefore been unable to migrate to fallback areas to save their livestock.
Because of the lack of food and water, livestock - particularly cattle, but also sheep, camels, donkeys and goats - are dying in large numbers in arid northern Kenya, where pastoralists are entirely dependent on their herds; women and children are begging at roadsides and large-scale migrations are underway, leading to growing conflict over land and access to wells.
Pastoralists are resorting to extreme steps, such as killing their newborn calves in the hope that the mother can survive. They are also carrying out mercy killings of livestock before they drop dead.
This crisis was caused by the failure of the October-December short rains in the north and very erratic and patchy rains in eastern Kenya. But the impact is compounded because people have lost their ability to cope after five years of drought in much of Kenya since 1999 - with a break only in 2003.
WFP and its partners, including the Government of Kenya, are conducting field assessments in the worst drought-affected districts this month to confirm the exact number in need of emergency food aid, but it will be at least 2.5 million people. Full results will be known in early February.
"For the hardest-hit districts, information from our field assessments show that the numbers in need of emergency food aid will more than double," Negash said. "The total number will be announced as soon as possible, but the needs are already far in excess of our resources."
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. WFP is also feeding more than one million school children - most of them in drought-affected areas.
Donors to WFP's Emergency Operation in Kenya are: the United States (US$36 million), Kenya (US$19 million), the United Kingdom (US$9.5 million), multilateral (US$6 million), Japan (US$4 million), Canada (US$4 million), the Netherlands (US$2.2 million), Sweden (US$1.27 million), Ireland (US$840,000), Finland (US$625,000), Norway (US$590,000), African Development Bank (US$500,000), Switzerland (US$41,000) and UN (US$8,800).