, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – Kenya has fallen short of about Sh21.3 billion funding for food aid from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) over the next six months.
WFP said on Tuesday that 3.7 million people in Kenya were currently receiving food aid but funding for many of its operations was low.
“We are knocking on the door of a major regional crisis,” said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, WFP’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa.
“The situation is not getting better. If anything, we’re seeing it get worse and we must all redouble our efforts to protect and assist the weakest.”
WFP reported that it had a shortfall of almost $450 million over the next six months for its operations in the Horn of Africa.
“We’re already reaching millions by using our limited resources intelligently and creatively, but there is no disguising the worrying gaps in our budget for our operations in the Horn of Africa,” the WFP official said.
In Ethiopia where 8.6 million people are receiving aid from WFP, the agency has fallen short of $123.2 million, Somalia $84.6 million, Uganda $65.6 million and Djibouti $6.7 million.
“We appreciate that the global financial crisis is squeezing resources everywhere, but we are urging donors to step forward quickly and generously, before it is too late,” said Lopes da Silva.
WFP also warned that millions of people in the Horn of Africa were once again faced with high levels of hunger and desperation as the global financial crisis bites harder.
The UN food aid agency is currently providing assistance to 17 million people in the Horn of Africa region.
The funding for its operations is now low at a time when the numbers of hungry people in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Northern Uganda and Djibouti was expected to rise in the coming months.
“Humanitarian assistance is vital for people who are struggling to survive as they sell off assets in a bid to survive the successive years of drought and conflict combined with the high food prices on local markets,” said the WFP Horn of Africa Special Envoy.
The food aid agency said in Ethiopia, only 50 to 70 percent of land planned for planting was sown by mid- April as farmers awaited the rains while Somalia’s cattle were already dying in large numbers.
“Millions of people across the region are seeing their lives spiral steadily downwards as this frightening confluence of factors all beyond their control pushes them closer to destitution,” said Lopes da Silva.
WFP also noted that food prices remained unusually high in many parts of the Horn of Africa stretching family resources to breaking point.
The WFP official said although prices had come down in some places, cereal prices in some parts of Somalia at the start of the year were still up to eight times above normal levels. In Kenya, maize prices in March were 43 percent higher than last year.
The UN food agency also said remittances to the region had fallen, in large part due to the global financial crisis. The urban poor were battling inflation on many everyday goods, while salaries remained static and employment hard to find.