, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 11 – The government will not declare the blistering drought a national disaster, despite increasing pressure from humanitarian agencies and lawmakers.
While addressing journalists on Tuesday, Special Programmes Permanent Secretary Andrew Mondoh instead defended the government from accusations of poor planning saying it had put in place an elaborate contingency plan to avert the effects of the looming crisis.
And although he refuted claims that four lives had already been lost, Mr Mondoh acknowledged that five million Kenyans faced starvation.
"I don\’t think there is any Kenyan who needs food but cannot get it. The only area that has not yet been addressed is livestock and that will soon be a thing of the past. Tomorrow (Wednesday) a team of PSs will actually go to North Eastern province to assess the situation," he said.
But in an earlier interview with Capital News, the Kenya Red Cross Society blamed the government\’s lack of preparation for the predicament saying it should be declared a national disaster.
Secretary General Abbas Gullet argued that the government needed to create a middle and long term plan for handling the effects of the erratic weather conditions in the country.
"We may not be able to address all the needs but as a learning nation we could say never again should Kenyans suffer because of the lack of will power to address these issues so can we walk the talk and stop talking," he quipped.
Mr Mondoh also urged livestock farmers to sell their cattle to the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) before the situation got out of hand noting that the government was in the process of scaling up its intervention measures.
"Farmers in the affected areas should reduce their herds and we would not like to see a situation where animals are taken to the KMC when they are in bad condition. We are in discussions with the ministries of Livestock and Local Authorities so that they can buy the cattle," he said.
He added that the government would in the coming days announce how much money it had set aside to fund the impending famine. He further explained that the government had also set up a crisis response centre as well as a national disaster operation centre.
"At the national level information can be provided or obtained from the crisis response centre on this number 020-8055781/2/3 or the national disaster operation centre on telephone number 020-22-12-386/020-2210053," he said.
The Red Cross Society is also set to launch its national aid appeal fund on Thursday in view of the same crisis.
According to Mr Mondoh 142,500 bags of maize, 64,000 bags of beans, 35,900 bags of rice and 25,900 cartons of cooking oil valued at approximately Sh1 billion have been distributed to 24 needy districts in the country. A school feeding programme is also going on in 96 districts.
One hundred and sixty boreholes have been drilled in the affected areas and water trucking is currently going on in 176 sites in northern Kenya. Nineteen new water bowsers have also been procured.