Over two million Kenyans still face hunger - Rainfall fails to ease drought

NAIROBI - The United Nations World Food Programme said today that over two million Kenyans still need food aid after recent seasonal rains failed to alleviate the dire effects of drought in large parts of the country.
WFP has appealed to donors for $43.4 million for 75,000 tons of food for 2.7 million Kenyans over the next five months, in response to an appeal by the Kenyan government in December. The funds will also underwrite the expansion of WFP's school-feeding programme, raising the number of children currently fed from 257,000 to more than one million in the drought-affected areas.

WFP says that the situation remains most critical in the northern and eastern regions of Kenya where inhabitants are suffering from the effects of three successive crop failures and drought and flood.

"Families have lost either their crops or livestock year after year," said Holdbrook Arthur, WFP Country Director for Kenya.

"People have now reached the stage where they're down to the bare minimum. This food is critical to stop the situation from getting worse, to help families stay alive and to allow them to keep hold of their few remaining cattle and food stocks," he said.

Of the areas hit by drought, Turkana, home to Kenya's pastoralists, is the worst affected.

Drought monitoring reports compiled by the government and aid agencies estimate that over 50 percent of the Turkana population suffer severe food shortages. As livestock prices rise and the price of cereal drops, families no longer have enough money to buy food. Malnutrition rates amongst children in the region are rising.

In the eastern part of the country, seed meant for planting has already been eaten to stave off hunger, preventing farmers from replanting and from taking even the most basic steps towards recovery. Patchy and sporadic rain have meant crops have not matured. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that up to fifty percent of the crop will be lost in this region.

Towns and villages in the worst affected areas have witnessed drastic drops in school attendance.

"Hunger is a constant spectre to children of the arid districts and is a critical element in whether parents send their children, particularly girls, to school or not. WFP's school-feeding programme is crucial to keep the children at school, ultimately giving them a chance of a future," said Arthur, who is also WFP Regional Manager for the Horn of Africa.

According to a WFP report, food shortages have started to force parents to send their children to towns to look for work, where many end up as street children.

WFP is working in close collaboration with the Government of Kenya, other UN agencies and NGOs to combat hunger across the country. As part of this multi-agency approach, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group has been established to act as a think-tank and advisory body on the issues of drought management and food security.

As a direct result of this group, WFP and other aid agencies will distribute the food aid using one common system managed by the local communities with the help and support of the international agencies. This is the first time this single approach has been used.

"This way, the communities will have more accountability and control over what happens to the food. It is also a more effective and efficient use of resources," said Arthur.

The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999, WFP fed more than 86 million people in 82 countries - more than half were girls and women.

For more information please contact:

Lindsey Davies
Public Information Officer
Tel. 254-2-622179

Christiane Berthiaume
WFP Information Officer
Tel. 41-22-917-8564

Michele Quintaglie
WFP Information Officer
Tel. 254-2-622336

Abby Spring
WFP Information Officer
WFP/New York
Tel. 1-212-963-5196

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