NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 22 – The World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday pledged to help feed some 3.2 million people following an appeal for food by President Mwai Kibaki.
WFP Spokesperson Ms Gabrielle Menezes said the organisation is currently carrying out an assessment in the affected parts to determine the extent of the famine and drought that has left about 10 million people or more starving.
Ms Menezes told journalists in Nairobi that they intend to begin distributing food aid in the coastal region, which is one of the areas worst hit by crop failure.
“From previous droughts WFP scaled up to feed 3.2 million people, so that is the roundabout estimated figure that we think we may have to feed. That’s just an estimated figure that we’re expecting to scale up to,” she said.
“We are doing our own assessment to establish the number that is in urgent need of food aid, from this assessment we will be able to get the concrete figure,” she added.
Ms Menezes said that the 3.2 million figure excludes 1.2 million people in arid and semi arid areas, who currently depend on food aid from WFP.
The organisation hopes to finish the assessment exercise by the end of March, when it will start distributing food aid to the affected persons.
“We will begin in the South-East coastal region, where it is reported that crops nearly totally failed,” she said.
The coastal region is listed among the worst hit areas with up to 100 percent crop failure, leading to an acute famine.
On Wednesday, the Kenya Red Cross Society reported that three children had died in the past week as a result of malnutrition, as hunger continued to bite in most parts.
Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet said two of the children succumbed to malnutrition in Bula, Makoror and Wajir.
The third child, a 13-year-old boy, Mr Gullet said, was found dead at Muruana village in Mwingi Distict after eating wild fruit.
Other affected areas include a section of Rift Valley and North Eastern Provinces, mainly Turkana and Samburu.
On Thursday, WFP officials said that they intend to increase the number of children under the school-feeding programme as part of efforts to curb the escalating crisis.
Currently, said Ms Menezes, WFP gives food to 763,000 children who depend on school-feeding programmes in Nairobi and Coast Provinces.
“With this crisis, it means that we may need to scale up school-feeding to an additional 850,000 children,” she said.