Kenya: President Kibaki declares current drought and famine a national disaster

Report
from Government of Kenya
Published on 16 Jan 2009 View Original
Nairobi, January 16, 2009, President Mwai Kibaki flanked by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Minister George Saitoti has a word with Professor Jefrey Sachs, special advisor to the United Nations Secretary- General when he officiated an International appeal for food relief at K.I.C.C, Nairobi.

President Kibaki declares current Drought and Famine a National Disaster

President Mwai Kibaki has today declared the current food emergency facing the country a National Disaster and launched a campaign to raise over 37 billion shillings required to address the urgent situation.

The President further directed all arms of the government to marshal available resources in order to respond effectively to the situation.

Speaking at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre today while making an international appeal to address the food crisis, President Kibaki expressed deep concern over the deteriorating food security for poor households.

"Our national assessment is that 10 million people are food insecure and require emergency support. These people will not be able to meet their minimum food requirements between now and the end of August 2009 without emergency measures," said the President.

During the occasion the President also warned government officials and unscrupulous traders against the manipulation of the food supply chain at the expense of the common mwananchi adding that the government would crackdown on them.

He said, "Let it be clear to all that under no circumstance will my government allow the livelihood of our people to be sacrificed at the alter of the private gain of a few people."

The Head of State noted that the government was taking varied measures to address the situation in the long term adding that the declaration of the famine as National Disaster was an emergency aimed at immediately averting further suffering of the Kenyan people.

In the medium term, President Kibaki said that in this approaching planting season his government would avail 93,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer at affordable prices to farmers and reduce the price of seeds by 10 percent.

Noting that the government was committed to making farming a rewarding venture, the President also promised that the government would provide farmers with affordable mechanical ploughing services in areas suitable for farming through the revived agricultural machinery services.

The President said, "I would therefore like to make an appeal to our farmers to increase the amount of land planted, so as to increase food production in the 2009/10 crop season. In indeed, our farmers remain out best hope for food self-sufficiency."

With regard to the current food shortage, the Head of State said that the government has made arrangements to import 7 million bags of maize at an estimated cost of 17 billion shillings in order to mitigate the crisis.

He further revealed that the government has also set aside 3 billion shillings for procurement of additional relief food supplies and another 1 billion shillings for non-food emergency interventions, while yet another 1.2 billion shillings has been allocated for the provision of water, purchase of livestock and supply of hay in arid areas.

The President said that the government in collaboration with the World Food Programme was feeding 1.4 people under the emergency operation programme while the government was also feeding another 1 million people through direct interventions.

He observed, "However, these ongoing programmes cannot absorb the sharp increase in numbers of needy people requiring relief food without additional resources."

Out of the required 37 billion shillings, President Kibaki said that the government had raised 5.2 billion shillings and urged development partners to help cater for the shortfall of about 32 billion shillings to cushion the 10 million Kenyans from the imminent starvation.

The government estimates that 30.2 billion shillings will be required for emergency food supplies, 3.8 billion shillings for the education sector, 1.3 billion for water, health and nutrition programmes and 2.6 billion is required in agricultural and livestock interventions.

The most affected areas are marginal districts in Eastern, Coast and Central provinces as well as pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces.

President Kibaki attributed the current food crisis to severe drought facing the country as well as failure of short-rains in many parts of the country and consecutive poor rains in past two years.

The Head of State also noted that other non-drought factors have contributed to the situation particularly the post-election violence that heavily disrupted the season in the country's breadbasket region as well as the global energy crisis.

He said that the country's economy faced high inflation worsened by the effects of the post election events as well as by the international food crisis and the oil crisis.

President Kibaki said, "The global energy crisis resulted in our producers facing high fertilizer prices, which in turn led to lower levels of use. The global food crisis led to high commodity prices, which made imported grains very expensive."

The President commended the international community and development partners for their previous responses to such emergencies and urged them to avail their support on time to save the lives of the needy citizens.

Speaking during the same occasion, Prime Minister Raila Odinga assured the Donor Community and other relief agencies of the government's commitment to ensure transparency in importation and distribution of maize and other cereals to affected citizens.

Mr Raila who is the chairman of the Cabinet Food Security Committee said the necessary mechanisms were also being put in place to seal loopholes that may be used by a few unscrupulous people to create artificial shortages.

The Prime Minister said that despite the social and economic instability occasioned by the current food crisis, the government has no intention of re-introducing rigid price controls.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka commended the media for highlighting the plight of the hungry in the country saying most regions recorded 100 per cent crop failure.

Several development partners appealed to the government to relax rules at the port of Mombasa that may delay the urgent importation of maize to the country.

Some donors pledged food aid worthy million of shillings while others said they would scale up their assistance as soon as they complete current drought assessments in the country.

Through representatives, China pledged US $ 3 million food aid and Japan Kshs. 3 billion among others

The meeting was attended by several Cabinet Ministers, Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Amb. Francis Muthaura, representatives of the civil societies, donor community and diplomatic corps among other dignitaries.