Page last updated at 19:45 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Kenya to declare food emergency

A young herder in Kenya walks past dead cattle in the north-east in 2006
A drought in Kenya in 2006 left many animals dead

Kenya is to declare a national emergency because of a drought affecting the East African country.

President Mwai Kibaki's government warned that nearly 10 million people - more than a quarter of the population - were at risk from food shortages.

The government intends to import five million bags of maize, reduce the price of seeds and buy up livestock in drought-hit areas to ease the crisis.

Famine relief packages including maize and beans are also to be distributed.

A drought in 2006 killed dozens of people and thousands of livestock - the main source of livelihood for nomads in the arid north-east of the country.

The decision to declare a national emergency was taken at a food security meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki and attended by ministers of his coalition government.

"President Kibaki told the food security committee that the entire government must focus on the urgency of providing food to all Kenyans after the failed rains in the last two seasons and reduced production due to last year's post-election challenges," a government statement said.

Correspondents say Kenya's finances are already under strain because of last year's post-election violence, which badly affected the economy.

At least 300,000 people were displaced in the unrest, many of them farmers who have been too frightened to return home and plant crops.

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