Hunger risk for ten million people in Kenya

Caritas is launching a US$4.1 million appeal to help the people of Kenya after warnings that children have already started to die from hunger-related illnesses. Up to 10 million people could be hit by acute food shortages.

A combination of drought, crop failures, high food prices and last year's post election violence means shortages are widespread. The crisis is affecting not only vulnerable groups such as women, children and pastoralists, but also households previously thought to have reliable food sources.

"Visiting rural areas for my work, I have seen children with distended stomachs and people who are visibly weak," says Stephen Kituku, National Emergency Coordinator for Caritas Kenya. "Animals lie dead by the roadside and many families are relying on just one meal a day."

Caritas' six month emergency project aims to reach 37,000 people in Mombasa, Malindi, Garissa, Kitui, Machakos, Meru, Embu, Nakuru, Kitale, Muranga, Isiolo, Lodwar, Nairobi and Maralal Dioceses with food. In addition, 4,400 farming households will receive drought-resistant seeds.

Caritas food distributions will tackle the issue of immediate hunger. Part of the focus will be on vulnerable people such as new mothers and babies, the elderly and people living with AIDS to ensure they receive nutritionally-rich foods.

To help people in the longer-term, Caritas will organise food-for-work projects and will distribute drought-resistant seeds to farmers.

"At the moment, it is important to respond to people's immediate food needs," says Mr Kituku. "But we also need to focus on issues such as water development projects to increase long-term food security as many people rely on rain-fed agriculture in Kenya."

Kenya suffered a major food crisis in 2005-6 when drought hit parts of the country and left 3.5 million people hungry.

The current crisis differs from previous ones as there is no one specific cause. Poor rains for the past two years have led to poor harvests, reducing food production and raising the vulnerability of subsistence farmers and pastoralists in particular.

Global food price rises mean that people in urban areas have reduced means to buy food.

Meanwhile, last year's post-election violence led to a significant loss of crops as many farmers couldn't return home to cultivate their fields during the insecurity. This reduction in national yield has bumped up further Kenyan food prices.

For more information please contact Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879721/+39 334 2344136 or