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Drought-Affected Kenya Sinking Deeper into Crisis

The World Food Program says Kenya is sinking further into crisis because of ongoing drought. The U.N. agency is urgently appealing for more than $230 million to provide emergency food assistance during the next six months to 3.8 million Kenyans affected by deepening drought and continued high food prices.

Many parts of Kenya have had three or four consecutive years of drought. The total failure of annual rainfall is having a catastrophic affect upon millions of people.

The World Food Program says the main maize harvest is expected to be 28 percent less than the average. It reports pasture and water for livestock is dwindling rapidly.

The World Food Program says malnutrition rates are moving up at an alarming rate. In some areas, it has reached more than 20 percent, which is well above the emergency threshold of 15 percent.

WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella says food prices are 100 to 130 percent above normal. "This is a country where obviously many people are buying the majority of their food and spending the majority of their salaries on food," she said.

"So, an increase of food prices at this rate is really devastating for families. And, at the same time, the price of livestock has gone down and obviously one of the coping mechanisms that people use at a time like this is that they sell their livestock. But a lot of the livestock is in poor condition now and the price of livestock has gone down," she added.

Many wells and boreholes in Kenya have dried up, and Casella says this is forcing more livestock herders to move farther a-field.

"My colleagues reported that on the slopes of Mt. Kenya there are dead animals, rotting carcasses," she said. "It is a very visible thing ... Many of the livestock that are there now are dying due to pneumonia of the cold weather, in essence, and also of tick-borne diseases as well. It is estimated that by the end of this season, half of the goat and cattle population in pastoral areas of Kenya may be lost due to direct or indirect affects of the drought."

The World Food Program is feeding 2.6 million drought-affected Kenyans. The Kenyan government will support the new caseload of 1.2 million people until the end of October. Casella says that is when Kenya's food stocks will run out.

She says the World Food Program will then add this group of needy people to its already large caseload of beneficiaries.