IFRC seeks $25m to tackle severe drought in Kenya

The IFRC warned that the number of people now in need of food assistance has reached 3 million, well over double the number recorded in December 2016.

Millions of Kenyans suffer from drought and famine.

Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society and Vice President of the IFRC said the drought situation is getting worse every day, warning that malnutrition rates among children are steadily climbing.

“Children are getting sick, and livelihoods of families have been decimated following the loss of thousands of their livestock,’’ Gullet said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The charity said the escalation of the number of people in need of food aid showed no sign of slowing down, with the government indicating that this figure could climb to 4 million in the coming weeks.

The Kenya Red Cross Society and the IFRC have announced a dramatic revision of their emergency relief efforts that will now target just over 1 million people.

The previous version of the operation sought 9.1 million Swiss francs (around 9.2 million dollars) to support approximately 340,000 people.

“It is more and more difficult for people to access water; people have to travel for up to three times as long just to get water for their family.

“This is an emergency that will not improve without help. We are calling on our partners to urgently support,’’ Gullet said.

Report says half of the East African nation is affected by the drought brought on by a third consecutive year of unreliable rains.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), below average rains are causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease, and causing large movements of people.

The latest appeal is a complement to Kenya’s ongoing nine-month response plan which faces a funding gap of 108 million dollars.

The situation in Kenya forms part of what has become a historic food crisis in East Africa.

“Where an estimated 22.9 million people have been classified by the UN as critically food insecure in Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as in north-east Nigeria,’’ OCHA noted.

According to Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC Regional Director for Africa, IFRC is running out of words to describe the situation in affected parts of Kenya, and across the region.

“Our message is simple: humanitarian organisations need resources to respond at the scale that is needed.

“If we don’t, then thousands of people may die, and children will be affected for the rest of their lives.

“And we won’t be able to say we didn’t know,’’ Nafo-Traoré stressed.

Latest surveys from the areas worst-affected by the drought show that there are over 340,000 children under the age of five who are acutely malnourished and in need of immediate support.

Malnutrition rates are above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent in many parts of the country, climbing as catastrophically high as 32 per cent in Mandera in the north-east.

There are also 37,000 pregnant and lactating women who are not getting the nutrition they desperately need.

The expanded Kenya Red Cross Society/IFRC operation has focused on cash transfers; health and nutrition; livelihoods strengthening; water, sanitation and hygiene and food security.

However, it would build on work that has been underway for months.

So far, the Red Cross has provided over 13,000 families with unconditional cash transfers, a response mechanism that empowers recipients to address their needs in the most efficient and dignified way possible.

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