Failure to fund doubling of Kenyan aid effort could lead to worst humanitarian crisis since independence, warns Oxfam

Published: 7 February 2006

Failure to quickly fund the Kenyan aid effort could lead to large-scale loss of life and the worst humanitarian crisis since Kenya gained independence in 1963, warned Oxfam International today (Wednesday) as the UN launched its new Kenya appeal.

A new joint assessment released today by the UN, aid agencies and the Kenyan government has recommended that the aid effort needs to double in order to meet the needs of the 3.5 million people at risk.

In the worst affected districts around 34% of the population is currently receiving food aid; the new assessment recommends that increases to between 65% and 70%. As well as food aid, other urgent needs include the provision of clean water and healthcare facilities. The UN is appealing for $230 million to fund the scale-up.

As the crisis threatens to rapidly deteriorate, Oxfam is calling on donor governments to respond urgently and generously to the appeal.

Gezahegn Kebede, Head of Oxfam in Kenya said, “The recommended doubling of the aid effort is welcome but even more may be needed in the near future. Our analysis suggests that in some areas aid is only getting to a third of those who need it. What is crystal clear is that if donors don’t rapidly fund the new UN appeal, the situation which is already critical, will get much worse.”

According to Oxfam’s analysis, the scale of the crisis in the worst affected districts has now entered the critical phase and the most difficult weeks are still to come, with rains not due until March or April.

The price of a cow in Wajir market has plummeted from around 5,000 shillings to as little as 300 shillings ($4) and 70% of cattle in the area are already dead. With 90% of the population in arid districts such as Wajir dependent directly or indirectly on livestock, the economy is in freefall.

Malnutrition levels in the worst hit areas are now reported to be more than 30%; more than double the 15% level at which an emergency is declared by UN standards.

“When malnutrition rates reach these levels, unless there is swift intervention, growing numbers of people will become severely malnourished and the mortality rate will rapidly accelerate. We can still stop this turning into full-blown crisis but only if donor governments respond quickly and generously,” added Kebede.

Oxfam is calling on rich donor governments to respond as soon as possible to the appeal. Previous UN appeals have only received around three quarters of the funding they needed.

The most serious Kenyan food crisis since independence prior to this was the 1971-72 crisis where a slow response compounded the crisis and led to hundreds of deaths. Oxfam is warning that a similar failure to respond to this crisis could have even worse consequences as the area and numbers affected is much larger.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact the Oxfam Media team in Nairobi:
Brendan Cox + 254 (0) 733 632 810 or + 254 (0) 20 282 0136
Anastasia Mutisya + 254 (0) 733 7926 74