The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that rain failure could cause the number of people needing food aid in Kenya to more than double – from the current 1.1 million to 2.5 million – while appeals for funds have come up short.
The lack of rainfall is likely to prompt a serious food security crisis over the first half of 2006, according to a group of UN agencies, including WFP, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), donors and government officials.
The experts said the October to December short rains were extremely bad in northeastern pastoral districts and rainfall in eastern marginal agricultural areas was erratic, patchy and 30 per cent below normal overall.
Significant livestock deaths have been reported because of a lack of water, pasture and other factors, WFP said. The deaths of large numbers of camels and donkeys in the north and east immediately after the short rains are a clear warning sign.
“Until our field assessments are completed in January, we won't know exactly how many more people will require emergency food aid, but in areas suffering from successive droughts, food security is already critical,” said WFP Country Director Tesema Negash.
“We are sounding the alarm now because of what the early warning indicators are all showing – a rapidly deteriorating situation. We need immediate action to avoid the loss of people's assets and their lives.”
The agency faces a $46 million shortfall in its $127 million emergency operation to assist drought-affected people in Kenya through the middle of next year. “Now the numbers are bound only to go up,” said Mr. Negash. “We must receive donations as early as possible in 2006 or it will be too late for many people,” he added.