- Some 3.5 million Kenyans are threatened by famine following the worst drought in the country for decades. The UN and the government of Kenya this week appealed for US$ 230 million in urgent donations to help the famine victims. Kenyans themselves are the first ones to donate, with musicians, trade unions, organisations and the Army leading the way.
The current drought in Kenya may lead to the worst famine in the country since independence in 1963. Kenyan officials this week scaled up the number of drought victims from 2.5 to 3.5 million persons in need of food aid. At least 40 people, mainly children, have already died of drought-related malnutrition and diseases.
Kenyan authorities have taken a lead in fighting the disaster. President Mwai Kibaki has declared a "national disaster" and the World Food Programme (WFP) is assisting authorities in organising the food relief. Together, they appealed for more than US$ 230 million in urgent donations from the international community.
The massive famine has also made a strong impression on Kenyans not affected by the crisis. A large number of solidarity events have been arranged and calls for domestic donations are circulating.
The home-grown campaign to help national famine victims got off as more than 20 local musicians and bands organised a much publicised food aid concert at Nairobi's Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday. The event was modelled after the 1984 Live Aid concerts, which drew attention all over the world to a severe drought in Ethiopia.
The Nairobi food aid concert achieved gathering more donations than imagined. Donations included cash, food and trucks to transport the food to the north, which is most affected by the drought. Some 12 truck, each of them with 20 tonnes of food, are now underway to the affected region thanks to the concert.
The event also served as a source of inspiration to others. The last few days, President Kibaki has received large famine relief donations from many more sectors of society. Earlier this week, the President received donation of shilling 3.6 million (US$ 50,000) from small scale tea farmers, shilling 1 million (US$ 14,000) each from the Kenya Tea Packers (KETEPA) and from the East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA) towards the same cause.
Today at State House Nairobi, President Kibaki received a cheque for shilling 13,075,600 (US$ 182,600) and foodstuffs worth shilling 792,800 (US$ 11,000) from the Kenya Armed Forces towards the famine relief efforts. Further today, he received cheques from the civilian staff working with the armed forces, from Kenyan students in the US and from the Minister for Defence Njenga Karume personally.
During the ceremony at State House, President Kibaki flagged off military trucks laden with the foodstuffs destined for the Kenyan north. "We hope that we shall have rains soon, but even when the rains come it will take time for food crops to mature. We shall therefore need more assistance for those affected," the President noted.
While Kenyans are making impressive donations to meet their "national disaster", both Nairobi authorities and the WFP emphasise that large-scale international aid is still needed to hinder millions from dying. Some 395,000 tonnes of food aid will be required, WFP says today.
"Many Kenyans - facing a fifth consecutive season of failed or poor rains - are already living on the edge and unless donors respond immediately, we fear for the worst," Tesema Negash of WFP Kenya said today. "Since 1999, 2003 was the only year when the country did not face a humanitarian crisis because of drought. With the prospects of another poor rainy season from March to June, we fear the situation will only deteriorate and the suffering, continue," added Mr Negash.
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