Aid trickles as hunger bites in Turkana

July 26, 2011 1:36 pm

, GlaxoSmithKline staff load  30 tons of food aid to be distributed by Kenya Red cross in northern KenyaNAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – Malnutrition rates in Turkana North have hit 38 percent, more than double the allowable threshold, as the drought situation rages in several parts of Kenya.

Speaking during a food aid flag-off on Tuesday, Kenya Red Cross (KRC) Secretary General Abbas Gullet said the escalating rates in Turkana must be addressed given the predictions of another failed rainy season.

“The malnutrition rate in places like the worst area in Kenya, which is North Turkana, is getting to past 38 percent. At 15 percent threshold already one is in the danger line. It is an acute malnourished situation out there and something urgently has to be done,” he said.

Since launching its drought appeal earlier this year, the KRC has already distributed close to 500 metric tones of food mostly in Turkana.

However, the relief that primarily targets school feeding programs, Mr Gullet said, tends to diminish much quicker, with parents flooding schools in search of food for their children.

“Enrollment has drastically increased because [the school] is the only place where kids can get a meal. So while you plan for 25,000 people, you’re feeding 50,000 people at the end of the day,” he said.

Mr Gullet said contributions like the 30 tons of food aid worth Sh3.6 million donated by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), on Tuesday, are timely now that the full force of the drought is being felt.

GSK East Africa Managing Director John Musunga said he hopes the donation will bring relief to the country’s hardest hit areas and urged fellow corporate groups to respond to the urgent need.

“We have seen the situation. We’ve seen the videos and photos, but as corporates and individuals we have to take a step forward as Kenyans and say, ‘Let’s do something for our own,’ but more importantly start addressing these situations into the future,” he asserted.

Mr Musunga also said GSK is committed to working with the KRC in formulating a sustainability program to help the most marginalised communities of the country avoid a future drought crisis.

In addition to food aid, the Kenya Red Cross has embarked on development-based initiatives, rehabilitating nine boreholes to benefit more than 85,500 people and 253,500 livestock and trucking water to Garissa, Mandera, East Pokot and Tana River among other areas; impacting about 285,800 people.

Over the coming months, Mr Gullet said, the Red Cross plans to help 855,000 people that have been adversely affected by the drought, through the provision of 15 liters of clean water to each person on a daily basis.


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