Kenyan food crisis compounded by 'serious flaws' in distribution system

Published: 21 January 2006

Thousands of lives are being put at risk because of the disintegration of the Kenyan food distribution system, says Oxfam International today.

The 'single pipeline' – which ensures coordinated and efficient aid delivery through a single structure – has broken down as the UN World Food Program has too few resources to deliver all the food needed. The Kenyan government are now having to run a parallel system leading to duplication, waste and in some cases the most needy going without help.

"Instead of a united, efficient and coordinated response we are left with a fractured, inefficient and wasteful system. If the single pipeline is not restored quickly, thousands of people could lose their lives unnecessarily," said Paul Smith-Lomas, Oxfam's Regional Director. "The UN is likely to launch a new emergency appeal in the coming weeks, donors must respond generously so that the UN has the resources they need to restore the single pipeline and get aid to all those at risk," he added.

The 'single pipeline' system was set up in 2000 to ensure that all food aid is efficiently delivered with distribution facilities in place, needs assessments carried out and the ability to get aid to those most at risk. The scale of this crisis, putting 2.5 million people at risk, has outstripped the resources of the UN to respond and families are not getting the aid they need to survive as a result. Assessments are underway which will determine the scale of the needs in all sectors and will be finalized in early February. A new UN appeal should follow.

The Kenyan government have had to set up a parallel process to supply extra food but with none of the necessary structures in place distribution has been inefficient:

  • In some places aid has been distributed simply by throwing it off the back of trucks.

  • A survey of four districts in Wajir by Merlin has found that hundreds of children are not accessing food distribution. The same survey found that 27% of children were malnourished when 15% constitutes emergency levels.

  • Admissions of children to Wajir Theraputic Feeding centre is now more than triple the level it was in October. An average of one child a week dies in this centre alone.

  • Surplus food in the West of Kenya is being exported abroad rather than diverted to those at risk from the food crisis.

The Kenyan government is aware of the deficiencies and is keen to restore the single pipeline as quickly as possible, but this depends on the UN having the resources it requires to coordinate the response. In Wajir, one of the worst hit districts, Oxfam yesterday (Monday) agreed with the Government of Kenya that it would restore the single pipeline by taking over the government's distributions – as a stopgap measure. This has led to a massive scale up in Oxfam's program and should help address the situation in Wajir – however this is just one district of 17 affected and few organizations have the resources to take on the additional work this involves.

"Oxfam is doing what we can to improve the system but it will only work properly when the UN appeal is launched and fully funded. That day can't come soon enough for the affected people of Kenya. Today we're calling on donors to make it clear that they will respond generously and immediately to the appeal," said Paul Smith-Lomas, Oxfam's Regional Director.

Notes to Editors

Oxfam is currently helping 200,000 people in the region.

Contact Information

For more information or interviews please contact:
Brendan Cox who is currently in Wajir on: Kenyan Mobile: + 254 (0) 733 632 810 or UK Mobile: +44 (0) 7957 120 853
Or Anastasia in Nairobi on + 254 733 792 674