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DROUGHT IN KENYA: FOOD SITUATION IS DETERIORATING RAPIDLY - FIRST STARVATION-RELATED DEATHS


Rome, 10 July - Kenya is suffering severely from drought and the food situation gives cause for serious concern, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a Special Report published today. "The food situation is especially dire for pastoralists because this is the fourth consecutive rain failure in their areas," FAO said. Starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are being reported.

The long rains season (March-May), which normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production, has failed due to severe drought, the report said. Most of the country, including the "bread basket" Rift Valley Province and the normally nearly food self-sufficient Central Province, has received little or no rainfall, leading to widespread crop failures as well as large livestock losses.

Maize prices are very high and continue to rise, FAO said. "This is seriously hurting the poor whose access to food is increasingly being curtailed."

FAO voiced special alarm about the food situation of pastoralists. "Livestock losses, plummeting livestock prices due to the poor state of the animals, and the high and rising grain prices have combined to precipitate a grave food crisis for the pastoral households. Household economies have collapsed leading to destitution and starvation-related deaths, especially among children. There are also reports of increasing inter-ethnic armed conflicts over scarce water and pasture resources."

Maize is the main staple food of Kenya, averaging over 80 percent of total cereals (rice, wheat, millet and sorghum). Current forecasts put the 2000 long rains maize crop at only 1.4 million tonnes, 22 percent less than the drought-reduced 1999 long rains crop of 1.8 million tonnes.

Assuming the 2000 short rains (October-December) harvest comes in at the same level as in 1999, estimated at 450 000 tonnes, total domestic production available for consumption in 2000/2001 will amount to only 1.85 million tonnes. Maize stocks are estimated to be depleted throughout the country. With a national maize requirement (including food, feed, seed, losses) estimated at 3.21 million tonnes, Kenya will need to import some 1.4 million tonnes until the next main harvest in September 2001, the FAO Global Information and Early Warning System said.

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The Kenya report will be available on the Internet at http://www.fao.org/giews/ early this afternoon.

For further information please contact: Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.org


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