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Drought-related food crisis hits Kenya

Severe drought in Kenya has caused substantial crop failures throughout most of the country, as well as large livestock losses in pastoral areas. A Special Report by FAO states that the food situation is particularly dire for pastoralists who are facing their fourth consecutive year of drought. Starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are being reported in these areas.

These satellite images indicate the vegetation cover in Kenya between 11 and 20 June. They are part of Global Information and Emergency Warning System's (GIEWS) Database on Food and Agriculture for Eastern Africa.

For a complete series of images of Kenya for the 2000 growing season click here.

The grave combination of livestock losses, plummeting livestock prices due to the poor condition of animals, and rising grain prices have created a serious food crisis for the pastoral people. Coping mechanisms have been exhausted, leading to destitution and starvation-related deaths, especially among children. Inter-ethnic conflicts over scarce water and pasture resources have also been reported.

The long rains season of March to May normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production. But this year, little or no rainfall has led to widespread crop failure, including in the "bread basket" Rift Valley Province and the usually nearly self-sufficient Central Province. As a result, this year's production of long rains maize - the main staple food of Kenya - is estimated at only 1.4 million tonnes, about 64 percent of the normal long rains harvest. The final figure could be significantly lower.

Maize stocks are completely exhausted throughout the country. Consequently, maize prices are already very high and still rising. From January to July last year, retail maize prices rose by up to 98 percent in major consuming centres. Although prices dipped slightly in September, by May this year they were once again heading towards mid-1999 levels.

The maize import requirement for 2000/2001 is estimated at 1.4 million tonnes according to the FAO report. A steep 75 percent tariff on imported maize was removed in June which should facilitate the flow of commercial imports by the private sector.

There is an urgent need for rapid international response to the government's emergency appeal issued in May 2000 for US$ 134.2 million to assist the estimated 3.3 million people in greatest need.

11 July 2000

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