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WFP Boosts Aid to Kenyan Urban Poor Because of Pandemic 

FILE - A World Food Program's flag flutters on the roof of WFP's headquaters after the WFP won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, in Rome, Italy, Oct. 9, 2020.

The World Food Program is increasing cash assistance to hundreds of thousands of Kenya’s urban poor, hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says Kenya has recorded 52,612 cases of coronavirus, including 964 deaths.

COVID-19 thrives and spreads easily in crowded urban settlements and poor sanitary conditions. In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, about 60% of the population of 4.4 million live in slums, vulnerable to viral infections and contagious diseases.

World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri says an estimated 1.7 million people living in these areas are short of food and lack nutrition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now, with new cases that are surging across the urban centers in Kenya, we fear that many more in COVID-19 hot spot counties may need our assistance,” said Phiri.

In response to this food and nutrition crisis, Phiri says WFP is rolling out cash assistance for more than 400,000 people in Nairobi and Mombasa. He says people will receive a $40 monthly stipend. This is enough to cover up to half the food needs for an average family of four.

Phiri says many more people who have lost jobs and income due to the pandemic need aid. However, he notes WFP does not have the money to help them. He says the agency’s $64 million emergency appeal is only 36% funded.

With adequate international support, he says WFP would be able to provide food assistance to 725,000 needy people in Nairobi’s informal settlements and other hot spots. However, with the amount of cash on hand, he says WFP only can reach out to the most vulnerable households.