FEWS Kenya Food Security Warning 14 Dec 2004 - Food aid improves; situation still precarious

A complete food basket will be distributed for the first time in December in seven of the worst affected districts, including Turkana, Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Isiolo, and Samburu. Beneficiaries in these seven districts constitute about 40 percent of the national total beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in the remaining districts will only receive a full ration of cereals and salt. The overall EMOP has not been as effective as intended in responding to the serious food gaps since July 2004, mainly because the food basket consisted of cereals only. The impact of the poor response is especially evident in areas where rates of child malnutrition have exceeded the World Health Organization's emergency threshold, such as in parts of Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, Mandera, and Garissa Districts.

Alarmingly high rates of child malnutrition during October in pastoral districts underline this concern, especially compared to relatively lower rates observed in drought-affected marginal agricultural areas (see figure) .

While a complete food basket for all districts is expected in January 2005, only 14,000 MT of food commodities were distributed to 1.3 million beneficiaries in November, instead of the anticipated 20,000 MT to 2.2 million persons. The lower-than-anticipated food distribution was due to logistical constraints, including delays by lead agencies in mobilizing funds, delays in setting up the community-based targeting distribution system, and difficulty in delivering food to some districts due to heavy rainfall.

Improvements in grazing (pasture and browse) and water conditions were observed during November in the eastern pastoral districts. As a result, key pastoral food security indicators, such as milk and water availability, have improved slightly in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Ijara, Isiolo and Moyale Districts, according to the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP). Still, pastoral recovery will likely be compromised by significant livestock mortality rates that occurred during October due to unusually heavy rains and cold conditions, which had a disproportionate impact due to the weakened state of the animals. These losses further compromise the viability of the pastoral livelihood system given previous herd losses due to years of drought.

While availability of a complete and balanced food basket for beneficiaries in December should assist pastoralists in the short-term, reduced and weakened herds suggest that pastoral recovery is still problematic.