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WFP Warns Of Large Scale Deaths In Kenyan Drought Crisis

A malnourished boy sits with his mother at a Medecins sans Frontieres' hospital in El Wak village 04 March 2006 in drought stricken North Eastern Kenya. World Food Programme director (WFP) James Morris said 04 March 2006, during a visit in El Wak, that international donors must act to avert a catastrophe in Kenya, where some 3.5 million people face starvation due to a devastating drought. AFP Photo/Pool/Tony Karumba.
by Bogonko Bosire
Nairobi, Kenya (AFP) Mar 05, 2006
World Food Programme (WFP) chief James Morris on Sunday warned of large scale deaths in Kenya if donors delay the support in the delivery of food to some 3.5 million people facing a threat of starvation. At least 40 people, or perhaps more, have died in northern Kenya and cattle, camels and donkeys are also dying at an alarming rate.

Acute food shortages are threatening at least 11 million people across the Horn of Africa.

"WFP and its partners are quickly registering the new arrivals to ensure they recieve food, but we fear that any break in food supplies to the most vulnerable people will lead to suffering and deaths on large scale," Morris said, who has just completed a tour of northern Kenya.

The UN food agency said it had enough maize and rice to cover cereal requirements for the months of March and April, half the quantity of beans needed this month and had run out of the less important vegetable oil.

"These people now have nothing, they will have to be provided with food" in order to live, Morris told a press conference in the Kenyan capital after touring El Wak, a dusty outpost about 820 kilometers (510 miles) northeast of Nairobi on the Somali border, that has become the epicentre of suffering across the east Africa and Horn of Africa region.

Of the 225 million dollars needed until February 2007 to buy some 396,525 metric tonnes of food each month, the agency had received 36 million dollars, leaving a shortfall of about 189 million dollars, the agency said.

"The world has not appreciated in the last 60 days how serious this situation is... we are now in a crisis. We are in a life-saving mode," Morris said.

The WFP chief warned that the situation was equally serious in Somalia where some 1.7 million people are facing food shortage, but delivery of supplies has been complicated by violence on the land and piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Of the 120 million dollars required for Somalia operations in 2006, WFP programme has secured 75, according to WFP country representative Zlatan Milisic.

"The world needs to know that the issue in Kenya and Somalia are very serious ... The people whose livelihood depend on mother nature are very vulnerable," he said. Kenya is home to 32 million people while Somalia has population of about 10 million.

"Other humanitarian agencies in southern Somalia face the enormous challenge of reaching drought victims in remote and insecure areas. We urge leaders and rival militia to set aside their differences and guarantee safe passage (of food aid) to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe," Morris said.

Last year, two UN-chartered food aid ships were seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean official the agency to start transporting food through land.

Morris urged rival militia in Somalia to allow an uninterrupted flow of humanitarian supplies of food in the shattered African nation, which has lacked an effective government since 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.

In addition to Kenya and Somalia, the UN estimates that up to 11 million people in two other east African countries -- Ethiopia and Djibouti -- are on the brink of starvation.

Source: Agence France-Presse

related report

Armyworms Destroy 45,000 Hectares Of Crops In Drought-Hit Tanzania
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (AFP) Mar 05 - Armyworms have destroyed at least 45,000 hectares of crops in different parts of Tanzania, where a searing drought is threatening millions of people, officials said Sunday.

So far, at least 45,087 hectares of crops, including maize farmland, have been ruined by the worms since last month, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

"We have so far distributed freely 36,718 litres of pesticides, as at the end of February, to all parts of the country earlier forecast for armyworm threat. We still see it imminent to spread to other regions in northern Tanzania," said Peniel Lyimo, the permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry.

Armyworms, which last attacked Tanzania in 1996, destroying thousands of hectares of farmlands, devour all green plants in their path. They breed fast, making them difficult to control, according to experts.

Early last month, the National Armyworms Forecasting Services Centre in the northern town of Arusha warned of a possible invasion of armyworms and urged farmers in agricultural belts to take precautions and spray crops with pestcides.

The worst affected area has been northern Tanzania but there are fears the worms could spread to other parts of the country.

The latest invasion coincides with an acute food shortage caused by severe drought. Last month Prime Minister Edward Lowassa appealed for some 100,000 tonnes of relief food for nearly four million starving people.

Tanzania, a nation of about 35 million people, is one of the five east African countries to be worst hit by the drought. Rains have failed in some places for five years and 15 million people are thought to be at risk of starvation across the region.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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