Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Kenya appeals for aid as 3.3 million face starvation


Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki addresses diplomats at Nairobi State House on Wednesday. Kibaki declared a state of national disaster as a severe drought hit large parts of the country, saying some 3.3 million Kenyans are facing severe food shortages.


President Mwai Kibaki declared a national disaster in drought-stricken parts of Kenya, calling for nearly US$100 million in emergency aid from abroad to feed some 3.3 million Kenyans facing food shortages.

Widespread crop failures from the Rift Valley in central Kenya to the Indian Ocean coast mean the country will need an estimated 156,000 tonnes of food aid in the next six months, Kibaki told diplomats and reporters on Wednesday.

Large swaths of Kenya periodically experience droughts, and the country last faced a severe food shortage after below average rainfall during 2000 and 2001.

Kibaki said Kenya will need about US$76 million in food aid from abroad to get through the latest drought.

"My government is appealing to all our friends to come forward with assistance to support our national efforts," he said.

An additional US$32 million will be required to ensure adequate water supplies and proper sanitation, health and education services for those affected by the drought, Kibaki said.

A report by UN, Kenyan and international aid officials obtained by reporters said 1.8 million Kenyans were in need of food aid over the next six months.

Kibaki did not say why the government's own estimates were significantly higher, but did warn the country may face even greater food shortages if the next rainy season fails.

"If the short rains expected in October-December fail, the country will experience a more severe food shortage, and up to 4.3 million Kenyans -- including 1.5 million school children -- will require food assistance for another six months," Kibaki said.

Kenyan farmers rely on two rainy seasons to grow their crops -- the "short rains" between October and December, and the "long rains" from March to June.

The national disaster declaration gives the government the legal right to dip into state funds not earmarked for food aid and to waive the 25 percent import duty levied on maize, a staple of the Kenyan diet.

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