Number of Kenyans in need of emergency aid has more than doubled in past six months

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

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DEC East Africa
Millions are at risk of starvation across East Africa. Credit: DEC

The Kenya Red Cross Society is warning that the number of people now in need of food assistance has reached 3 million – well over double the number recorded in December 2016. This escalation shows no sign of slowing down, with the government indicating that this figure could climb to 4 million in the coming weeks.

In response, the Kenya Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have announced a dramatic revision to their emergency relief efforts. The Red Cross will now target just over 1 million people, in an operation that now requires a little over 25 million Swiss francs (USD 25 million). The previous version of the operation sought 9.1 million Swiss francs to support approximately 340,000 people.

“The situation is getting worse every day. 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,” said Dr Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society and Vice President of the IFRC. “It is more and more difficult for people to access water – people are having 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.”

Latest surveys from the areas worst-affected by the drought show that there are more than 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 focuses on cash transfers; health and nutrition; livelihoods strengthening; water, sanitation and hygiene, and; food security.

It will build on work that has been underway for months. So far, the Red Cross has provided more than 13,000 families in areas hit hard by the drought with unconditional cash transfers, a response mechanism that empowers recipients to address their needs in the most efficient and dignified way possible. In addition, nearly 20,000 people have benefited from an innovative scheme whereby the Red Cross purchases livestock from pastoralist communities, and then returns the meat to them, bolstering income and access to food. Nearly 11,500 families (about 66,000 individuals) have been supported with more traditional emergency food aid.

The situation in Kenya forms part of what has become an historic food crisis in East Africa. In all, an estimated 22.9 million people are have been classified by the UN as critically food insecure in Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as in north-east Nigeria.

“We are running out of words to describe the situation in affected parts of Kenya, and across the region,” said Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC Regional Director for Africa. “Our message is simple: humanitarian organizations 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’.”

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