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Immediate famine threatens 10-million Kenyans

By Adriana Stuijt     Jan 10, 2009 in Health
The East-African country of Kenya only has a paltry 1.2 million bags of the staple food maize (corn) in stock - enough to feed its people for only the next two weeks. Ten-million people risk hunger and Kenya has declared a national emergency.
Once the current stock runs out, within two weeks, Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said, 10million people are at immediate risk of starving to death within just days: they now are severely malnourished in many districts because their food crops have failed.
Kenya, where US president-elect Barack Obama's grandmother still lives and his father was born, is an important partner for the US military as it is one of the few countries along the east-African coastline which maintains cordial relations with AFRICOM, the US military command for the African region. AFRICOM's presence in Kenya has given the US military an important foothold. see
The government has declared a national emergency to free up emergency funds. Its import duty on imported maize has been waived until the next harvest: the government has purchased five million bags of maize to make up a shortfall in local production. They did not say where the staple-food was sourced from: usually African countries buy such stocks from neighbouring South Africa, which still has a few commercial farmers left.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the US administration says the Kenya Food Security Steering Group already warned in October last year that the food supply situation of more than 5m people in urban slums and rural areas was expected to deteriorate without food-aid. This was not only due to 'drought' as is being claimed by the government, but mainly due to the ongoing civil strife amongs ethnic groups, which last year caused a massive ethnic-cleansing campaign dislodging millions of people from their homes.
The worst affected are the people in pastoral areas.
The situation on the ground as now reported by the Kenyan government is thus twice as bad as had been predicted by the FAO. see
Meanwhile thousands of families from the politically-volatile central Kenya region are already waiting for relief supplies after their crops failed.Many residents now are teetering right on the edge of starvation.
Severely affected areas are parts of Nyeri, North Murang’a, the larger Laikipia in Rift Valley and Mbeere and Tharaka Districts of Eastern Province. In Murang’a, residents have resorted to eating unripe fruit. And even the fertile Nyeri South District, which hardly ever experiences drought, has been affected after the short rains failed.
65% drop in crop production:
Rivers from the Mt Kenya towers mountain region –– the source of many rivers that flow within the region –– are drying up and this has affected vegetable and fruit farming.Central Provincial Crop Officer Alfred Mureithi said only some million bags of maize were harvested in the province last season -- a 65 percent drop from last year.
Relief food
Murang’a South regional offical Christopher Musumbu said 109,000 people in the district require relief food.
The worst hit areas in the district are Kambiti and Maranjau, where many hundreds of families have been going to bed on empty stomachs for the past month.
Schools closed due to hunger
Many primary schools in Makuyu division went down as many of the pupils moved out of school due to hunger.
The situation is likely to worsen this year.
In Kandara constituency, said district officer Alfred Manduku, the towns of Gaichanjiru, Kagunduini and Muruka are affected due to crop failure.
In Murang’a North District, 56,152 people require relief food.
District Commissioner George Natembeya says the district requires 16,846 bags of maize and another 2,246 bags of beans to feed the needy in the next three months.
Kiharu division has been listed as the worst hit with 18,680 persons being termed extremely needy.
Masai cattle are emaciated:
I
Sudan Man Carries Air-Dropped Food Bag
A villager carries a food supply bag air-dropped by the World Food Programme (WFP) aircrafts
UN Photo/Fred Noy
n Laikipia, County Council Chairman Joseph Ndiang’ui said more than 50,000 people are faced with starvation, most of them from Laikipia North, Lamuria division and Segera.
The Masai pastoralist areas of the trouble-torn Ol’Moran and Rumuruti divisions in Laikipia West District are also in need - the traditional cattle are dying due to drought. Councillor Epuke Lobun said the pastoralists have started moving their emaciated stock in search of greener pastures.
Lobun said at least 20,000 residents of Muramati, Kimagandura, Kariunga, Mukima and Endana areas are faced with starvation.
Spokesman Alfred Mutua says declaring an emergency frees up disaster funds held in reserve by the government and allows money to be diverted from development projects to food aid.
The last state of emergency declared because of hunger was 4½ years ago.
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