NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – The United Nations food agency announced on Wednesday that it would be scaling up food assistance appeal for Kenya to feed 3.5 million people hit by drought and high food prices.,
The World Food Programme (WFP) further appealed to donors for a total of Sh19.7 billion to prevent the most vulnerable from going hungry.
“Kenyans already struggling with drought and high food prices are now being hit by the financial crisis,” said WFP Kenya Country Director Burkard Oberle, adding that falling remittances from overseas, in addition to crop failures, meant that hundreds of thousands more people were now struggling to find enough food.
Oberle added that rates of child malnutrition in pastoral and marginal agricultural districts, for instance, were already beginning to reach or surpass crisis levels.
“Subsistence farmers in southeastern and coastal areas were hardest hit by the failure of the October-December short rains and have experienced almost total crop loss; Many families are struggling to find food for even one meal a day, and need food assistance in some cases until the next short rains harvest in 2010,” read part of the WFP statement.
The new WFP operation in Kenya will cost Sh38.2 billion from April 2009 through March 2012.
The scale up in food assistance will see an increase in the number of people receiving general food distributions from 1.2 million people to 2.5 million through February 2010.
“(We need to) assist 340,000 people including children, pregnant and nursing mothers and orphans for the same period. Out of these, 175,000 people in overcrowded urban areas with a malnourished child in their family will receive monthly family rations,” Oberle said in a statement.
The programme will also provide 655,000 children with a meal at school, giving families an incentive to keep children in school during tough times instead of pulling them out to look for work or food.
Under a separate operation, 770,000 children currently receive WFP meals in school.
The Government of Kenya declared a national disaster in January following the failure of the short rains in southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural lowlands and the central highlands.
High food prices have exacerbated the crisis caused by drought and reduced people’s ability to buy food. Inflation and high fuel and fertilizer prices stopped farmers producing larger harvests.
A joint short rains assessment due to be issued this week by the Government, UN agencies and NGOs found maize output for 2008-2009 marketing season was 15 percent below average.
WFP is encouraging farmers to grow drought resistant crops, such as millet and sorghum.