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More Aid Needed to Fight Kenyan Drought


Kenyan government and aid officials held a send-off ceremony Tuesday for a truckload of food aid traveling to famine-stricken areas in northern Kenya. The officials say assistance is coming in, but more is needed.

Rice, cooking oil, beans, and wheat flour were among donations from three local businesses packed into a truck that left the Kenya Red Cross warehouse in Nairobi for the north Tuesday.

At the ceremony, Kenya Red Cross Secretary-General Abbas Gullet told reporters Kenyans donated about $100,000 since the beginning of the year for famine relief, while a cell phone network company, Safaricom, recently contributed close to $136,000.

He says the current drought follows on the heels of an earlier one, and is affecting an increasing number of Kenyans.

"But now with the failure of the short rains last October-November, we have had the numbers that have now been revised upwards, and currently we are talking about 2.5 million Kenyans affected by the drought," he said.

Some 22 districts primarily in the north and east have been hit by the drought, which has killed more than 40 people and has been declared a "national disaster" by the Kenyan government.

The next rainy season is forecast to begin in April.

Mr. Gullet says his and other organizations have had to contend with bad roads when transporting the food.

He says there have been complaints that the food, while reaching the districts, has not been distributed to people who need it the most. The Kenyan government has asked the Kenya Red Cross to oversee food distribution in some districts.

An official with the Office of the President, Simiyu wa Sanja, says Kenyans and organizations have responded well to the crisis, but more help is needed.

"At the present moment, we have also sent teams in the field on food security assessment, and with a worsening situation, it is anticipated that the number of people affected is going to go up," he said.

Sanja says the government is now concentrating on improving access to water and sanitation conditions in the affected areas.

As one way of dealing with the situation, the Kenyan government has been buying cattle that would otherwise die for lack of food and water.

The drought problem is also occurring in other countries of the region. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization recently warned that 11 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia are being affected by the drought.

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