NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – The United Kingdom on Friday announced an additional Sh600 million for humanitarian aid to help Kenyans cope with the impact of the ongoing drought.
The money will immediately go into assisting about 281,000 children under the age of five who are extremely malnourished.
Regional humanitarian Adviser at the Department for International Development, DFID, Simon Mansfield said the drought was the worst in the country’s recent history, with more than 20 percent of children in some districts starving.
"Therapeutic feeding is expensive but it is the best option for those children at risk of dying, especially because of increased cases of diarrhoea. So we don’t have any choice," he stated.
The UK meanwhile also called on Kenya to allocate more money from its own budget to help contain the food crisis, noting that the Kenyan government had already allocated Sh21 billion for the same cause.
"We commend the government for its efforts," said Mr Alistair Fernie, Head of DFID Kenya in Nairobi. "But given the scale of the problem, we think the Government needs to allocate more money from its own budget. Widespread hunger and suffering among its people must be a priority call on any Government’s budget."
The UK also held that it was working with the Kenyan government to find long term solutions to Kenya’s dependence on international humanitarian aid, providing more than Sh14 billion over 10 years for social protection programmes mostly in the arid and semi-arid lands.
"This crisis is an opportunity for Kenya to confront the chronic problems which repeated droughts bring", said Mr Alistair Fernie. "A country with Kenya’s resources and capacity should not be appealing for international humanitarian aid on this scale year after year. Our funding would better be spent developing long term sustainable solutions to Kenya’s persistent poverty and changing climate, which could reduce the need for food handouts and improve communities’ and families’ own coping mechanisms when rains fail," he explained.
The money will go to United Nations Children’s Fund and NGOs to help some of those most vulnerable to the current crisis. This aid totals to £15 million (over Sh1.8 billion) in DFID’s humanitarian contribution to Kenya in the year 2009.
The UK funds will support emergency feeding, health, water and sanitation interventions that will include water sterilisation kits for 200,000 households.
The funding comes at a time when UNICEF announced that a third of Kenya’s children are malnourished.