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Cablegate: Wfp: Politics, Economics Hinder Kenya's Fight


DE RUEHNR #4781/01 3211244
P 171244Z NOV 05






E.O. 12958: N/A

Sensitive but unclassified. Not for release outside USG

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: World Food Program (WFP) officials
briefed Ambassador and Emboffs on the November 2nd appeal
for donor support for Kenya's continuing food emergency,
which will likely keep more than 1.2 million people at risk
until at least February. WFP Country Director Tesema
Negash expressed his appreciation for USAID's positive
response to the current appeal and to USDA's important
contribution to on-going school feeding programs throughout
Kenya. WFP confirmed that Kenyan government officials are
distributing food aid not to meet critical needs but in an
apparent effort to win votes for the November 21
constitutional referendum. In general, though, the GOK is
contributing to the WFP's food programs. Longer-term,
however, there is need for the Kibaki administration to
seriously work towards ending the county's seemingly
endless cycle of hunger. Participants also discussed the
critical need for attention to the nutritional requirements
of Kenya's HIV/AIDS population and the impact on
deforestation caused by WFP contracted trucks carrying
charcoal between districts. END SUMMARY.

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2. (U) During a November 3 meeting, the United Nations
World Food Program (WFP) Country Director for Kenya Tesema
Negash outlined the dynamics of Kenya's ongoing food
emergency and thanked the U.S. for its continued support of
WFP food aid appeals. Negash confirmed that Kenya is
falling into a pattern of perennial food shortages despite
the fact that much of the country had almost normal
rainfall this year and that Western Kenya is expecting a
bumper harvest of maize. Kenya's on-going food emergency
is largely due to pockets of severe poverty and poor
1infrastructure. Currently, just over one million people in
Kenya are receiving food aid, down from 2.3 million in
2004. The current crisis will likely subside by the end of
Kenya's "short rains" season in February. The food
situation has shifted away from some areas historically
impacted by shortages, such as Turkana. Negash explained
that WFP assistance is targeting the most critical need
areas, including the lowlands of Eastern Province, much of
North Eastern Province, and some inland areas of Coast
Province. Accompanying Negash was Robert Rose, WFP
Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Unit Programme Officer,
and Program Advisor Ben Watkins. Also participating was
FAS Counselor, Emergency Program Coordinator for
USAID/Kenya, and Econoff.

3. (U) [Note: On November 2, the WFP issued a press
release to reinforce the GOK's September 13 appeal for $25
million response to an imminent food crisis in a number of
Kenyan districts, with an estimated 1.2 million Kenyans at
risk of starvation. USAID is considering additional food
relief. To date, the USG contribution to the GOK's July
2005 appeal is valued at $36.9 million. Other donors'
contributions include $1.7 million from the UK, $1.2
million from Sweden, and $360,000 from Finland. End note.]

4. (U) In addition to the U.S. response to the emergency
appeal, the WFP official expressed great appreciation for
our contribution to its school feeding program under the
Dole-McGovern Act. The U.S. pledge of $10.3 million makes
Kenya the largest recipient of this form of U.S. aid, and
has permitted the WFP to improve the program's underlying
management, and not just respond to crises. The school
feeding program is now expanding out of its normal
attention to rural poverty (where 1 million students are
receiving meals) and into the growing slum areas of
Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nakuru, with an initial
target of an additional 100,000 students.

5. (SBU) Given that the current emergency appeal
represents less than 2% of Kenya's anticipated maize
harvest, the Ambassador asked if the GOK had the ability to
break this cycle of hunger. Negash replied that, in
general, the government is doing what it can: Kenya is now

the second largest donor to WFP's current appeal, with a
commitment of 5,000 MT. However, Negash believes that the
GOK does not have the financial resources to pay for
transportation expenses. Negash said that the GOK is
developing a "fast track" plan for reducing food security,
but progress is hindered by Kenya's current over-
politicized atmosphere. He highlighted some of the
barriers that Kenya has to overcome to make real progress
against chronic hunger:

-- pervasive poverty in routinely impacted areas, like
North Eastern Province, where family purchasing power is
extremely low. In some affected areas, total household
income does not even equal 80% of minimal nutritional

-- addressing growing land degradation and increasing
population growth in arid and semi-arid regions;

-- increasing migration from poor rural areas to
overpopulated and unhealthy urban slums;

-- terrible road infrastructure between productive areas
and the regions of need;

-- the GOK's insistence on directing significant resources
to a strategic grain reserve.

6. (SBU) Negash also expressed frustration (and confirmed
recent press reports) that pro-draft constitution
government officials were distributing food in an obvious
effort to buy votes from certain communities. He described
this as a "fairly general" distribution of 2-3 kg bags of
emergency food per household, and publicizing it as
emergency assistance, even though the food is not going to
the most critical areas. As a result, WFP is suspending
its food distribution to areas where the GOK is handing out
food. Negash firmly believes this "political use of food
aid" will end with the November 21 constitutional
referendum, and hopes the GOK will then refocus on need,
not votes.

7. (SBU) The WFP officials said that they value U.S.
contributions of corn more highly than wheat, especially
for its feeding programs in Kenya's refugee camps, where
milling capacity is limited. When asked about recent GOK
requirements to document any shipments that might contain
biotech varieties of maize, Negash said that Kenya's
concerns about GMO products is environmental, not
nutritional, and so should not be a barrier as long as the
shipments are for food aid and not commercial or
agricultural use. [Note: The Kenya Plant Health
Inspection Service (KEPHIS) has recently initiated
accompanying documentation requirements detailing the GMO
status of imported commodities. They have expressed to FAS
Counselor a reluctance to allow imports of any whole grain
GMO commodity due to the possibility of its propagation.
End note.]

8. (U) The WFP officials expressed their concern that much
more needs to be done to assure that HIV/AIDS patients have
access to adequate nutrition, highlighting reports of
serious medical consequences (including paralysis,
blindness, and stomach ulcers) associated with anti-
retroviral (ARV) treatments in patients without adequate
nutrition. According to Negash, now that ARV regimens are
becoming widely used in Kenya, the impact of poor nutrition
among that population is becoming critical. Also, some
medical centers refuse to start a patient on ARVs until
they are regularly receiving sufficient nutrition. The
Ambassador agreed that there is a well-established link
between adequate nutrition and ARV effectiveness, and added
that good nutrition is also vital for HIV-positive
individuals who do not yet require ARVS, but are constantly

fighting- off opportunistic diseases. The Ambassador
explained that the U.S. PEPFAR program, which is a major
provider of ARVs, was not initially set up to deal with the
nutritional side of the equation, but that this could be an
important complementary area for other donors.

9.. (U) Ambassador Bellamy shared his concern that WFP-
contracted trucks, which are bringing food relief to
refugee camps in Northern Kenya, were transporting locally
produced charcoal on their return trips, facilitating a
process which is exacerbating the very serious
deforestation (and crop failures due to desertification)
occurring in these arid and semi-arid areas. He asked if
the WFP couldn't prohibit this practice as part of its
contracts with the trucking companies. Negash agreed that
this is a serious problem, but thought it would be
difficult to impose a ban on such transport in their
contracts. He did offer to write to the companies to raise
the issue, and to also encourage Kenyan authorities to
enforce the laws against the production and transportation
of charcoal.

10. (SBU) Thanks to the WFP, U.S. agencies, and other
donors, it is likely that Kenyans facing severe food
shortages will, for the most part, be fed. However, both
the Ambassador and USAID highlighted the need for the GOK
to seriously work on ending Kenya's on-going food
emergencies and the annual ritual of requesting
international assistance. Just as importantly, the GOK
needs to be held accountable for politicizing its food aid.
Otherwise, we can expect even more of the same in the run-
up to the 2007 presidential election.


1Given that the national poverty line still stands at 56%,
the word 'pocket' appears an understatment. That said, I
would attribute the growing food insecurity to, the rampant
monocropping culture (mainly maize which does not do well
in times of moisture distress), lack of livelihood
diversification (mostly referin to pastorlists in NEP),
poor infrastructure, poor and politically motivated
economic and soical policies.

© Scoop Media

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