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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 12:56 GMT
Food crisis 'worsens' in Kenya
Boy walks past dead cattle in northern Kenya
The situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly
Aid agencies have stepped up appeals for food in northern Kenya where some 2.5m people face severe shortages.

Eight under-nourished children have died in the last 10 days in the hospital in Garissa.

The situation is deteriorating rapidly with families losing cattle, goats and even hardier camels, aid workers say.

Thousands of herdsmen seeking new pastures are moving to Uganda, where Lake Victoria's waters have dropped significantly due to the drought.

Exodus

World Vision, Action Against Hunger and the International Federation of Red Cross Societies have added their voice to the appeal of the Kenyan government, which has declared the food crisis a "national disaster".

President Mwai Kibaki visits Mandera hospital, north east of Nairobi
President Mwai Kibaki has pledged government aid for famine victims

Over the last few months the pastoral people of northern Kenya, Somalia and southern Ethiopia have begun to lose their livestock to the drought.

"Communities may soon be wiped out since they depend entirely on livestock," said the Red Cross.

Children, weakened by months of hunger, are starting to die of diarrhoea, malaria and other diseases, and the existing centres for feeding malnourished children are overflowing, aid workers say.

BBC Africa analyst Elizabeth Blunt says people in these parts of Africa have traditional ways of coping with drought, eating famine foods such as wild berries and migrating en masse to areas where there may still be water and grazing.

The water levels at Mtera and Kidatu dams are too low to generate power
Patrick Rutabanzibwa
Tanzania's energy and minerals ministry

A senior Kenyan churchman said more than 3,000 people from Western Pokot district were on the move, heading towards the Ugandan border with around 20,000 head of cattle.

"The exodus is still going on, but we hope that Ugandan authorities will understand the situation and continue allowing the Pokot to graze their animals in the country," Rev Joseph Murupus told Kenya's East African Standard newspaper.

Power cuts

This drought follows previous seasons of poor rains across the region.

Uganda's Water, Land and Environment Minister Kahinda Otafire warned on Wednesday that the water levels in Lake Victoria - which borders Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania - had dropped due to the drought and some hydroelectric plants may be closed.

He said more than 20 Uganda districts were facing food shortages, but said the problem was not as serious as in Kenya.

Tanzania is also expected to start power rationing as water levels in dams have dropped.

"The water levels at Mtera and Kidatu dams are too low to enable Tanesco [Tanzania Electric Supply Company] to generate power as required," Energy and Minerals Permanent Secretary Patrick Rutabanzibwa told Tanzania's Guardian newspaper this week.

"The plan is to start with a two-hour rationing schedule," he said.

The next rains in the area not due until April.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the failed crops in Kenya



SEE ALSO:
Kenya appeals for famine relief
09 Jan 06 |  Africa
Kenyan drought adds to Maasai woes
30 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Country profile: Kenya
10 Jan 01 |  Country profiles


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