25 June 2009

More Aid to the Rescue

Agency targets Kenya with food aid

A boy sells tomatoes in a Nairobi open-air market: The Red Cross and Red Crescent Society is appealing for more food aid after rains failed. /Reuters

By Walter Menya 
Posted Thursday, June 25 2009 at 00:00

Unpredictable rainfall patterns, low harvests and the displacement of people during last year’s post-election violence have worsened food crisis in Kenya.

The development has led to a new food appeal by an international human agency, in an endeavour targeting the Horn of Africa region.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is asking donors for an additional Sh5.2 billion ($67 million) to benefit 2.5 million people hit by famine in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somali over a period of five years.

Most of the funds will, however, be used in Kenya where the agency said almost 3.5 million people had their food supplies interrupted, leading to food insecurity.

“Conditions in the Horn of Africa have deteriorated significantly in many areas, most notably in Kenya, in recent months.

Worst affected
“The short rains expected in Kenya in the end of 2008 failed, and the long rains, expected in April, were inadequate.

Harvests have been extremely low, in part due to the displacement of people during the poll violence,” IFRC said in its revised appeal document to the donor community.

Besides, Kenya has seen an influx of refugees fleeing the insurgency in neighbouring Somalia.

The situation at the Daadab refugee camp has been deteriorating with almost 271,000 refugees, which is above its capacity of 90,000.

The original Emergency Appeal was launched on December 11, 2008 for Sh7.4 billion ($95.4m) to assist 2.2 million.

The IFRC hopes to implement a significant increase in activities across all sectors, but particularly with respect to food in Kenya.

Kenya Red Cross Society now plans to reach nearly one million people through food distributions, with an additional 500,000 children being reached through a school-feeding programme.

The emergency efforts will concentrate on providing food assistance, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, IFRC stated.

Unlike other countries set to benefit from the fund, Kenya’s would be carried out at a higher level and greater urgency because of the widespread famine and conditions that are fast deteriorating, according to the humanitarian group.

In some areas, including parts of Ethiopia and Somalia, there has been some rain, but this has not relieved the situation of pastoralists who were worst affected by the food crisis and widespread animal deaths of 2008, said the agency.

In Djibouti, rural pastoralists run the risk of running into huge losses since the communities have been ravaged in the face of severe food shortages, massive deaths in their herds, and potential epidemics resulting from a lack of safe water supplies.

Detailed plans
“To take account of these changes in the targeted countries, it has been necessary to substantially revise the Emergency Appeal.

“More funds are urgently needed to allow the Horn of Africa team to produce detailed plans of action for interventions that tackle not just the immediate needs but the food insecurity in itself. The needs are enormous and so are the options for the choice of type and location of interventions” the organisation said.

IFRC says is the activities were important to the affected groups, pointing out that postponing them would make the crisis worse and increase vulnerability of the target beneficiaries.

“They are vital to ensure that the impact of the operation extends beyond the time it takes to digest the food that is being distributed during the emergency phase.”

IFRC reckons that this appeal will undergo another revision in September 2009 after harvests in the Horn.