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Lack of Rainfall Triggers Food Security Alarm in Parts of Kenya

The UN World Food Program is warning that the number of people needing food aid in Kenya could double in the coming months to two and a half million. The WFP blames it on a lack of rain.

Peter Smeardon is a spokesman for the World Food Program. From Nairobi, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the problem across eastern and northern Kenya.

“We’re very alarmed because basically the short rains, which go from October to December, have been extremely bad, particularly in the northeast pastoral districts, which don’t get much rain anyway. And in the eastern marginal districts, basically the rains have been erratic and patchy and certainly 30 percent below normal. But in some places there have been no rains at all. So, we’re extremely concerned because particularly in the eastern marginal areas they depend on the short rains. So, the whole area that will probably need food aid has extended. So, now it’s all northern Kenya, both the northwest, the northeast and probably the eastern marginal areas,” he says.

The WFP is currently feeding 1.1 million people and expects that number to rise to 2.5 million. The Kenya Food Security Meeting, which is made up of UN agencies, NGOs, donors and government officials, says one of the warning signs has been the deaths of many animals.

Mr. Smeardon says, “People driving around have seen large numbers of dead donkeys, cattle and camels, which have died because they don’t have the browse they usually feed on and they’ve run out of water and that sort of thing. That sort of death is extremely unusual in the numbers we’re seeing and it’s made people very worried. That’s an early warning indicator because it’s just after the short rains so things should be fairly green and certainly animals such as camels should not be dying.”

The WFP says it has received “very limited donor pledges to its appeal. It says it’s current operation to feed drought affected people in Kenya through June 2006 has a $46 million dollar shortfall.