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Kenya moves to mitigate hunger


Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday convened the National Drought Committee to evaluate and come up with mitigating measures on the looming food crisis in the country caused by the La Nina climatic phenomenon.

The three hour meeting held at the PM's Office deliberated on intervention measures required to cushion the nation from the impending ravages of drought.

The meeting attended by top officials from key government ministries involved in drought mitigation programmes also reviewed the latest findings amid reports that the situation was grave in Northern Kenya.
Participants included participants from the ministries of internal security, special programmes, water, agriculture, livestock, education, transport, forestry and wildlife.

The crisis meeting comes amid fears that the effects of the La Nina related phenomena were gradually creeping in the Eastern side of the continent.

Preliminary projection indicates that the maximum impact of the climatic occurrence is likely to be felt in the month of December.

The report comes as Kenya was recovering from the effects of a debilitating drought in 2008 which affected millions of Kenyans and led to deaths of livestock in their thousands particularly in the arid northern Kenyan region.

During the crisis the government sunk more than 158 boreholes and constructed water pans to address water scarcity while delivering food to the worst hit areas.

The meeting comes in the wake of disturbing media reports that a family in Turkana resorted to eating their only pet dog to quell their hunger amid a crisis over the lead agency chosen to distribute relief food to the worst affected areas.

On Monday the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) refuted claims that politicians wanted it to distribute relief food contrary to WFP rules in relation to MPs being involved in the District Steering Groups (DSGs).

The society which said it has always abided by the rules which have been in operation for close to 10 years are being changed conveniently by WFP "after decisions have been made using instruments agreed upon by GoK/WFP, without reference to the stakeholders".

"In fact, some agencies have been appointed to operate in more than six districts and some faith-based organizations, thus challenging the said ‘new rule," said the society in a statement.

The socuiety says it was appointed the lead agency by the DSGs in various districts in line with the GoK/WFP criteria but this has been overturned at the national level.

In 2009-2010, KRCS was distributing relief food under the programme in 12 districts, but this was cut down to two districts in the current phase.

Under the General Food Distribution, KRCS has been appointed lead agency in Garissa, Ijara, Kwale, Koitabatek and West Pokot.

KRCS says several districts were affected by change of decisions made by the DSGs, but the decisions were later upheld save in Makueni, Koitabatek, Tana River and Turkana Central where WFP has not accepted the selected lead agencies and instead appointed NGOs of their own choice.

The socity claims the affected districts have not received food to date.

KRCS maintains it has an unmatched capacity to handle distribution of relief food in terms of manpower, network of branches, with over 70,000 volunteers and trucks used during the distribution of relief aid, which no local organization can match.

"In the larger Turkana County, the distribution of relief food is ongoing, save Turkana Central where KRCS was selected by the DSG and appointed by the Government as the lead agency, but WFP declined to negotiate the budget with the Society".

To avert a humanitarian crisis KRCS called WFP to put the records straight on the selection criteria of the lead agency and to abide by the decisions made by DSGs.

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