KENYA (9 February)
Heavy rains particularly in November and January resulted in serious floods which caused loss of life, extensive damage to infrastructure and housing, left many villages isolated and displaced large sections of the local population. The areas worst affected include the Coast Province, North Eastern Province and parts of the Eastern Province. These areas have been declared a Disaster Zone by the Government, which has appealed for international assistance to cope with the emergency.
The rains also adversely affected the 1997/98 maize crop, the main staple of the country. Torrential rains in October/November, at the time of the harvest of the main season crop, which accounts for some 80 percent of the annual output, reduced yields of maize already affected by a dry spell at the critical grain-filling stage. Yields of wheat were also affected by heavy rains at harvest. However, the worst effect of the floods was on the second season crops, grown in the bi-modal rainfall areas of Western, Central and Eastern provinces from mid-October to February. The maize output of this season is estimated to have declined by onethird from normal levels, while the bean crop was sharply reduced due to both adverse weather and lack of seed. In aggregate, the 1997/98 maize production is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, slightly above the reduced level of 1996/97 but below the average of the past five years. In consequence, the food supply situation is anticipated to be tight in the months ahead. Maize import requirements, expected to be covered mostly commercially, are estimated at 800 000 tonnes. This is, however, lower than in the previous year when maize imports reached 1 million tonnes. Total cereal imports, including wheat and rice in which the country has a structural deficit, in 1997/98 (October/September) are provisionally forecast at 1.2 million tonnes.
While the abundant rains of the past months improved pastures for livestock, an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in October, as a result of the flooding that has caused an explosion in the mosquito population that carries the culprit virus, has resulted in the deaths of many people. These conditions have also favoured the appearance of a complex of animal diseases causing the loss of thousands of cattle, sheep, goats and camels.