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» 09.03.2010 - Kenya floods affect 8,300
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Society | Agriculture - Nutrition

"2 million Kenyans at risk of starvation"

afrol News, 26 April - According to the World Food Programme (WFP), chronic drought now "places 2 million Kenyans at risk of starvation." Even though parts of Kenya have seen patchy rainfall in recent months, a devastating, years-long drought means that there is still a chance that 2 million people may starve without food assistance through August, WFP said.

The debilitating impact of a prolonged dry spell, compounded by chronic poverty, means that in many regions of the country – particularly in the arid and semi-arid north and east – thousands of families are too poor to have enough to eat. Between May and August, WFP plans to provide 83,000 tons of food aid to 1.6 million drought-affected people. The UN agency also was to ramp up its school meal programme, adding another 420,000 pupils to the one million students it already provides with nutritious daily meals.

The agency said it was to adjust various levels of assistance according to needs, with some 1 million people in severely-hit regions receiving general food rations and some 600,000 in less affected areas receiving aid through a combination of food-for-aid work projects aimed at rebuilding infrastructure, or through assistance target at the most vulnerable elements of the community.

But WFP warned that it is still short 52,000 tons – a US$ 28 million shortfall representing some 63 percent of the food required for Kenya for the four-month period. The government of Kenya has donated 65,000 tons of maize to WFP, making it one of the main contributors to the operation.

- The November-December rainy season was very mixed across the country, said Tesema Negash, WFP's Country Director for Kenya. "In some areas it rained more than normal, so the crops are good and livestock is recovering from the drought. In others, rains were either worse that the previous season or came at the wrong time." He further added that in other parts of the country, the rains once again failed to come at all.

In Kajiado – the worst-affected district – the cumulative effect of the total failure of rains last year and two poor rainy seasons in 2003 was now "life threatening." Here, livestock died, calves are being killed to preserve the cows and milk production is almost nil, harming both people’s diet and purchasing power. Most of the rain-fed crops such as maize and beans, failed.

Meanwhile, health centres in Kajiado report an increase in malnutrition - 30 percent of the children seeking medical assistance are underweight compared to six percent in regular years.

- Fortunately, there are also areas which have seen a clear recovery with good agricultural production and pasture, and where food aid is no longer necessary, Mr Negash however added. "We must therefore concentrate on the regions suffering persistent drought."

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