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Aid Sought As Drought Hits Kenya’s Maize

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) appealed Aug. 25 for more than US$230 million to provide emergency food aid over the next six months for 3.8 million Kenyans affected by deepening drought and high food prices.

Experts say Kenya’s output of its staple food maize is likely to be just 15 million 90-kg bags this year, sharply lower than the government’s forecast of 20.4 million bags.

“Red lights are flashing across the country,” Burkard Oberle, WFP’s Kenya country director said in a statement.

“People are already going hungry, malnutrition is preying on more and more young children, cattle are dying – we face a huge challenge and are urging the international community to provide us with the resources we need to get the job done.”

Many parts of the country have now suffered three or even four consecutive failed rainy seasons, WFP says, and conditions are expected to deteriorate further over the coming months.

Two weeks earlier, Agriculture Minister William Ruto said east Africa’s biggest economy faced rising food prices for the rest of 2009 due to lower output after rains failed in some regions.

Ruto said the maize crop would fall to 20.4 million bags compared with 28 million bags in a normal season.

However, Steve Collins, the country director of ACDI/ VOCA, a U. S.-based group that promotes agriculture, said in the Daily Nation newspaper that output was likely to reach only 15 million bags due to prolonged drought, high fertilizer prices and the lingering effects of post-election violence last year.

Kenya expects an annual maize demand of about 35 million bags, meaning it will be even more reliant on imports this year.

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