NAIROBI, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on
Friday launched an international appeal seeking 37 billion shillings (about 463
million U.S. dollars) to feed its hungry population as it has declared the
famine situation in the country as a national disaster.
President Mwai Kibaki who launched the appeal in
Nairobi said the Kenyan government will require 30.2 billion shillings for
emergency food requirements, 3.8 billion shillings for the education sector, 1.3
billion shillings for water, health, and nutrition programs, and 2.6 billion
shillings in agricultural and livestock interventions.
"My government has with effect from today (Friday)
declared the famine situation in the country a national disaster. I now direct
all arms of the government to mobilize the resources and coordinate their
efforts in responding adequately," he said.
"Our national assessment is that 10 million people
are food insecure and require emergency support. These people will not be able
to meet their minimum food requirements between now and the end of August 2009
without emergency measures."
In order to deal with the food crisis, Kibaki said
his government has so far made arrangements to import 7 million bags (90kg/bag)
of maize at an estimated cost of 17 billion shillings.
He said the maize will be sold in the market to lower
and stabilize food prices for the majority of Kenyans.
Kibaki said the primary cause of the current famine
is the severe drought the country is facing, including the failure of the
short-rains throughout most of the country and the cumulative effects of four
consecutive poor rain seasons in the last two years.
The most affected areas, he said, are the marginal
agricultural and agro-pastoral regions as well as parts of the central
"Together, these prolonged droughts have resulted in
a shortfall of 10 million bags, from 33 million bags to 23 million bags in the
current season, he said, adding that the Strategic Grain Reserves have also
reduced from 4 million bags to the current level of below 700,000 bags.
According to Kibaki, the government presently has set
aside 5.2 billion shillings of the 37 billion shillings that are required to
meet the emergency and appealed to development partners to helpmeet the 32
billion shillings shortfall that will be needed to ensure the needs of 10
million Kenyans are met until the end of August this year.
Kenya's officials say the government's finances are
under strain because of the cost of sheltering and reintegrating 350,000people
displaced by violence following Dec. 2007 elections.
Kibaki said country's economy is also facing high
inflation, driven mainly by the effects of the post-election events, the
international food crisis, and the global financial crisis.
"As a result of all of these factors, the prices of
maize and maize products as well as other foods that form the staple foods of
most Kenyans have risen sharply in the past one year, and adversely affected
most Kenyans," he said.
Kibaki said overall average inflation for 2008 was
26.2 percent compared to 9.8 percent in 2007 while food prices rose by 35.3
percent and energy prices increased by 21.5 percent.
Other household expenses also grew by between 6 to 10
percent last year, with the lower income groups being the most affected, he
He said the poorest Kenyans have been the worst-hit
in this situation, facing not only food scarcity, but also water and pasture
scarcity and declining health conditions for children and the elderly.
"The most affected areas that require emergency
support are the marginal agricultural districts of lower Eastern (Ukambani),
Coast, and Central provinces," he said, noting that other areas that are
adversely affected include the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Rift Valley,
Eastern, and North Eastern provinces.
Currently, the Kenyan government and the World Food
Program are feeding 1.4 million people under the emergency operation program.
Another 1 million people are also fed through direct
government interventions. However, Kibaki said these ongoing programs cannot
absorb the sharp increase in numbers of needy people requiring relief food
without additional resources.
"It is our assessment that the food security
situation will worsen unless immediate actions are taken to deal with the
emergency, and medium and longer-term interventions identified to mitigate
against future recurrence of this type of situation," Kibaki said.
He said the government will make available about
93,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer at affordable prices, and reduce the price of
seed by 10 percent as short term intervention measures to avert the food crisis.
"We will also make arrangements to provide affordable
mechanical ploughing services in areas that are suitable through our revived
agricultural machinery services," he said.
The president warned that his government will not
tolerate the actions of some officials and unscrupulous traders who seek to
manipulate the food supply chain for their own benefit.