'Mass suffering' looms over drought-hit Kenya, says UN agency seeking relief funds

2 November 2005

With northeastern Kenya plagued by erratic rainfall, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for $25 million to assist 1.2 million people facing critical food shortages.

"We need donations now if food is to reach these people in time to avoid mass suffering because of drought. This problem is not going to go away if it is ignored," WFP Kenya Country Director Tesema Negash said.

An earlier appeal did not produce enough pledges, he said, and the situation in Northeastern Province, home to 900,000 of the most vulnerable people, had deteriorated since July.

"More livestock, including camels, are dying," he said. "The animals that are still alive have to walk further and further for water."

The unusual long rains this year, with most of the heavy rain falling in May instead of April, affected this year's harvests, particularly in the eastern and coastal lowlands, and the impact of the October-December short rains would not be seen for several months, WFP said. The drought emergency operation was extended in September for six months.

Meanwhile, WFP urged all countries, including traditional and non-traditional donors from the European Community and the oil-producing States, to assist nearly 10 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe with urgent food assistance until next April.

"Governments have the financial power to save lives in southern Africa," WFP Regional Director Mike Sackett said in Geneva, Switzerland. "However, some governments have yet to make a contribution to the regional operation or are simply undecided – faced with competing humanitarian disasters. The children of southern Africa need help now, before their tiny emaciated bodies appear on television screens."

Unless donors come forward with cash contributions to plug WFP's immediate shortfall of $157 million for Southern Africa, many people would not receive help in time, he said.

"The United States is by far the biggest donor to WFP's operations in southern Africa, giving more than $104 million this year, while members of the European Union have given $64 million," Mr. Sackett said. "No funds have yet been pledged by the oil-rich States to our current regional appeal – even though oil prices have been reaching record highs for most of this year."

 

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