NAIROBI, 20 March (IRIN) - The European
Commission's humanitarian aid office (ECHO) on Tuesday announced
that it is to provide 2.5 million euros,
or about US $2.2 million, to help people affected by continuing drought
in north and northeast Kenya.
In these regions, it said, poor rains during 2001 meant that agricultural production did not recover from the 1999-2000 drought, the worst Kenya experienced in three decades.
The new funding will target some 70,000 pastoralists as part of a comprehensive and integrated ECHO support programme already being implemented, it added.
Unusual but beneficial rain in mid-January marked the end of the 2001-02 short rains in Kenya but drought-affected pastoralist areas benefited little, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS Net) reported in late February.
Despite a reasonably good rainy season, several areas of the country received significantly below-normal rainfall during the short rains, including most of the pastoral districts of Turkana, Mandera, parts of Isiolo, Marsabit, Kajiado and Wajir, according to the USAID- and WFP-supported FEWS Net.
Livestock raiding and ethnic conflict have also undermined pastoralist gains in several areas - particularly in southern, eastern and northern parts of Turkana, southeastern Tana River and northern parts of Moyale Districts, according to humanitarian sources.
The nutritional status of most pastoralists (especially children) has stabilised from the dangerous lows of mid-2000, but several pastoral districts still need assistance to improve access to adequate clean and safe water, and health and sanitation services, as well as to food, they added.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Kenya last month highlighted the effects of prolonged drought in many parts of the country, in terms of the potential for disease outbreaks, forced population movements and internal displacement, and a negative impact on participation rates in education.
Persistent drought had "severely affected" water sources in many parts of the country, particularly in North Eastern Province, it said, warning that the "prevailing water shortages and population movements" along the northern border were greatly increasing the chances of outbreaks of diseases like cholera, typhoid, measles and diarrhoea.
The new ECHO funding will go to support a range of health and nutrition, livestock support and water and sanitation activities, the office stated on Tuesday.
The aims are "to alleviate immediate suffering and prepare vulnerable communities for future droughts," it added.
At the height of the Horn of Africa drought in 2000, some 3.2 million Kenyans in 22 districts were dependent on food aid, with malnutrition rates soaring to rates as high as 40 percent, more than three times the normal level.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) predicted in January this year that, despite a "generally favourable" 2001 short rains season, food insecurity would persist in many of Kenya's pastoral areas in 2002, and many households would remain extremely susceptible to disaster.
Areas within the pastoral zones where the size of livestock herds had been hit by years of drought, the El Nino weather patterns (of 1997-98) and low-level conflicts are of particular concern, according to humanitarian sources.
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