NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – The government has asked leaders from regions hardest hit by the current famine to urgently meet and assess the hunger situation that is estimated to have affected nearly half of the country’s population.,
The data collected would be used by the government to determine whether the famine should be declared a national disaster.
"It’s important for leaders to be briefed on the extent of the famine to enable the Cabinet and Parliament to mount a massive mobilisation of resources both locally and internationally in order to feed the hungry," Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said.
He said that the data on food shortages as a result of the current drought should be handed over to the government as soon as possible.
"I am sure the President after the next Cabinet meeting will declare this famine a national disaster," he told journalists.
Mr Musyoka disclosed that he would convene an urgent leaders’ meeting in Eastern Province to discuss the famine ravaging most parts of the region.
"I expect leaders from other regions equally affected by famine to focus and present proposals for government action," said the VP, who spoke in Nairobi.
Analysts say the number of Kenyans in need of food aid has been rising steadily as the current drought continues to take its toll.
They have also said "serious flaws" in food distribution networks are putting people at risk.
The situation has further been exacerbated by farmers in western Kenya, who are ignoring an order to sell their successful maize crop to the government, to help the hungry in the drought-hit parts of the country.
The farmers accuse the government of offering poor prices for their crop.
"I would rather store my produce rather than sell it to the government at Sh1,950 per 90 kg bag to the National Cereals and Produce Board; keeping in mind the high costs of production," said a farmer in Saboti Trans Nzoia district.
President Kibaki announced a week ago that some 10 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food, urging his Cabinet to immediately start working out strategies and mapping a national emergency plan.
Kenya had already sanctioned the importation of five million bags of maize duty free to meet the country’s deficit, while also rolling out a government supported programme to boost production for the next cropping season, which includes subsidised inputs for farmers.
The government is also planning to distribute food to the worst affected regions of the country, adding to efforts already undertaken by humanitarian agencies such as the World Food Programme.