Kenya + 2 more

KENYA: Humanitarian situation likely to worsen in 2011, officials say

NAIROBI, 30 November 2010 (IRIN) - Kenya is likely to witness worsening food security, significant disease outbreaks, and further pockets of conflict in 2011, as well as a continuing flow of refugees from Somalia, say aid officials.

"There is a fear of La Niña compromising the [food security] gains made," said Aeneas Chuma, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator at the 30 November launch of Kenya's 2011 Emergency Humanitarian Response Plan (EHRP) appeal. Most of the US$525 million funding requested is expected to meet food security and refugee needs.

At present, the number of food aid beneficiaries has dropped to 1.2 million from a peak of 3.8 million during the 2009 drought due to favourable October-December 2009 short rains and March-May 2010 long rains. But numbers are expected to rise, with poor rains in eastern and northeastern regions, as well as lower levels in western areas.

According to the assistant minister in the Ministry of State for Special Programmes, Mahmoud Ali, an estimated 250,000 and 40,000 children younger than five, respectively, are affected by moderate and severe acute malnutrition nationally.

"With the La Niña, the drought, and the shortfall of water... cholera outbreaks are also likely," said Patrick Lavand'homme, deputy head for Kenya of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Kenya has been struggling with repeat cholera outbreaks since 2006 - reported cases have declined over the January to October period to 3,000 compared with 8,000 in 2009.

Conflict over water and pasture during the dry spell is also projected to continue in arid parts, with "an estimated 10,000 people. expected to be displaced due to resource-based conflicts, fuelled by proliferation of small arms into the country from the neighbouring countries", according to the EHRP.

Planning for influx

Contingency planning for a likely surge in Southern Sudanese asylum-seekers, as a possible impact of the 9 January referendum, is also necessary, said officials. "We are talking about probably 20,000 Sudanese asylum-seekers in the first half of 2011 and about 80,000 more in the second half," said Lavand'homme.

A continued influx of Somali refugees, now estimated at about 4,000 a month, is expected to continue into 2011. Kenya hosts 412,193 refugees and asylum-seekers and the numbers are projected to rise to 455,000 by the end of 2011, according to the government.

"Given the escalation of fighting in Somalia, a weakened central government, and the proliferation of armed groups, it is envisaged that there will be an increase in the refugee population in Dadaab [refugee camp] of between 60,000 and 100,000 in 2011," stated the EHRP.

While Kenya's political situation is expected to remain stable in 2011, aid agencies will be assessing the impact of the recently passed constitution, such as new county boundaries, and preparations for the 2012 general elections.

The EHRP, dubbed 2011+, will be characterized by longer-term humanitarian projects incorporating disaster risk reduction into 2012-2013. "We are hoping this will encourage donors to deal with crises on a continuum basis to build on the year-on-year capacity," said Anne O'Mahony, Kenya director for Concern Worldwide.

Continued humanitarian assistance is vital as Kenya deals with multiple challenges, including a growing population and a lack of infrastructure, said O'Mahony, adding that recurrent drought and flooding had brought about a chronic poverty cycle in the arid areas.

"Chronic poverty also is not very far from our doorsteps as seen in urban slums in Nairobi and Mombasa," she said.