Kenya: UN agencies, gov''t appeal for food aid as shortages persist

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

NAIROBI, 14 September (IRIN) - UN agencies and the Kenyan government appealed for a total of US $29 million on Tuesday to feed an estimated 1.2 million people who will need food aid until February 2006 because of erratic rainfall in several parts of the country.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) would require $25 million for its emergency operation between September 2005 and February 2006, said Peter Smerdon, the agency's spokesman. Some 79,000 tonnes of food would be needed with the Kenyan government providing 5,000 tonnes.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its partners would need an additional $4 million.

A comprehensive assessment conducted in July by the government of Kenya, UN agencies and nongovernmental partners to determine the impact of the 2005 long rains on drought-affected Kenyans found pockets of critical need, particularly in the southeast and rural areas in the coastal and northeastern provinces, according to WFP.

The unusual pattern of the long rains this year, with most of the heavy rain falling in May instead of April, affected this year's harvests, particularly in the eastern and coastal lowlands, including Makueni and Kitui Districts, Smerdon added.

"The government is requesting more international and local assistance," said Special Programmes Minister Njenga Karume during the launch of the appeal.

WFP's drought-emergency operation was initially launched in July 2004 after poor rains in eastern, southern and parts of northern Kenya left 2.3 million people in need of assistance. Due to partial failure of the 2004 short rains from October to December, the operation was first extended for two million people in 21 districts until August 2005.

"The good news is that there has been an improvement in some areas that were severely affected by last year's drought, namely in Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Laikipia, Baringo, Isiolo, Kajiado and Narok districts, so the number of Kenyans in need of our assistance has dropped by 800,000," said WFP Country Director Tesema Negash in a statement.

"However, pastoralists in Wajir, Garissa and Mandera disticts once again face inadequate water supplies and dry grasslands and the early migration of livestock is affecting access to milk for many living there," he added.

WFP aims to provide a total of 78,941 tonnes of food through general food distributions. Some 250,000 Kenyans in nine districts will participate in food-for-work initiatives to improve water access and the environment, and 52,112 pregnant and lactating mothers and children under five will receive supplementary feeding. In the eastern and coastal districts, 200,000 school children will receive nutritional support to encourage them to stay in school.

UNICEF's interventions include targeted feeding for malnourished and vulnerable children, provision of vitamin A capsules, immunisation against polio and measles, provision of health services and repair and rehabilitation of water sources.

"The nutrition and health surveys conducted in the affected areas continue to show high rates of malnutrition among children, especially in the northeastern parts of the country, which is the most vulnerable region," said Heimo Laakkonen, UNICEF's representative in Kenya.


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