The United Nations and the G-20 group of nations have described the drought ravaging northern Kenya and the rest of the Horn of Africa as the worst in 60 years.
The crisis had surpassed the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, only that casualties were fewer because of the timely interventions by World Food Programme, and the governments of Kenya and Ethiopia, according to UN official Josette Sheeran.
Ms Sheeran, who is the WFP executive director, declared the crisis as “a corporate urgency” during a tour of Wajir and Daadab on Saturday.
She led a delegation comprising among others the head of Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Mr Jacques Diouf and French Agriculture minister Bruno le Maire.
Ms Sheeran called on the world to urgently raise funds for 11 million people in critical need of food.
“The UN has declared the Horn of Africa the largest humanitarian concern in the world and WFP is working with national governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to increase life-saving operations,” said the WFP boss.
The UN fears that tens of thousands of people have died of starvation in Somalia. Others are fleeing to neighbouring countries.
An estimated 400,000 people face starvation in Wajir Thousands of malnourished men, women and children have moved to camps to get relief food.
Ms Sheeran said there was a shortfall of $350 million (Sh31.6 billion) and that WFP was currently accessing only 40 per cent of the hunger-stricken in Somalia, with 2.2 million at the risk of dying in the southern part of the country as “local authorities” (al Shabaab militants) had denied humanitarian workers access.
“Fourteen WFP officials have been killed in Somalia since 2008 and yet we cannot address the situation because of insecurity,” she said.
WFP Somalia country director Stelano Gozetti said they were considering flying over the worst-hit areas and dropping food supplies.
Mr Maire said the French government had donated $10 million to purchase food in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
“We are tabling the matter before an emergency G-20 meeting in Rome today to discuss permanent solutions such as agriculture and infrastructure investment.”
Special Programmes minister Esther Murugi said the government has set a side Sh4.4 billion to provide food to children in drought areas. The will also get the food during the holidays.