Number of Kenyans going hungry doubles to 3m: Red Cross

Nairobi  - The number of Kenyans needing emergency food aid has doubled in the past three months to three million, the Red Cross said on Tuesday, as the impact of a devastating drought worsens.

Kenya is one of several East African countries suffering from food crises, along with Ethiopia; South Sudan, where famine has already been declared; and Somalia, on the brink of its third famine in 25 years.

Outside the region, Yemen and Nigeria are also facing famine, in what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II.

Like many of its neighbours, Kenya is suffering the effects of two failed rainy seasons in a row, hugely reducing crop harvests. Food prices have soared, pushing inflation to a five-year high of nine percent in February.

"The situation is getting worse every day. Malnutrition rates among children are steadily climbing. Children are getting sick, and livelihoods of families have been decimated following the loss of thousands of their livestock," Dr Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society, said in a statement.

"It is more and more difficult for people to access water - people are having to travel for up to three times as long just to get water for their family."

In Kenya the drought has also exacerbated clashes between pastoralist communities, which have left over 30 people dead, and also imperilled wildlife - a main drawcard for tourists.

The number of Kenyans going hungry could increase to four million in the coming weeks, the statement said.

More than 340 000 children under the age of five are also acutely malnourished.

"We are running out of words to describe the situation in affected parts of Kenya, and across the region," said Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, the International Federation of Red Cross regional director for Africa.

"Our message is simple: humanitarian organisations need resources to respond at the scale that is needed. If we don't, then thousands of people may die, and children will be affected for the rest of their lives.

"And we won't be able to say 'we didn't know'."

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