(Updates with comment by officials in third, fifth paragraphs.)
July 26 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations released 1.25 billion shillings ($13.8 million) from its emergency fund to help millions of people in Kenya facing hunger amid the worst drought in decades, a UN official said.
Drought conditions are worsening in areas including Turkana near the Ethiopian border, and Wajir and Mandera, close to Somalia, Aeneas Chuma, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in the country, told reporters today in the capital, Nairobi.
“The current situation is that drought conditions continue to deteriorate and worsen food security in northern and northeastern pastoral regions of Kenya,” Chuma said. “Up to 3.5 million people will need food assistance in the coming months.”
East Africa has suffered from two poor rainy seasons that caused one of the worst droughts since 1950-51, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The UN needs $1.6 billion in the next 12 months to provide aid to the region, it said on July 25. In May, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared the drought a national disaster.
About 385,000 children are either “moderately or severely” malnourished, while another 90,000 pregnant or lactating mothers face malnutrition, Olivia Yambi, country representative for the UN Children’s Fund, told reporters. Migration by families searching for food is decreasing enrolment in some schools, while exposing children to the risk of child labor, abuse and prostitution, the UN said.
“The crisis is very serious,” Yambi said. “It is eroding gains in child survival, potentially also eroding gains Kenya has made in the area of education.”
The mortality rate for children under five years of age in Kenya is 52 per 1,000 births, while the primary-school enrolment ratio is 94.6 percent for boys and 90.5 percent for girls, according to UN data. Life expectancy in the nation of 38.6 million people is 54 years.
Kenya’s government is working with agencies including the UN World Food Programme to respond to the crisis. The WFP also plans to establish a mobile unit to ensure health centers in the region are adequately stocked with drugs and medical equipment.
WFP has a funding shortfall of $110 million for its programs, the organization’s deputy director, Pippa Bradford, said at the news conference today.
--Editors: Philip Sanders, Louis Meixler
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