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Planet Ark World Environment News Kenya's Deadly Drought Could Last All Year - Forecast

Date: 06-Jan-06
Country: KENYA
Author: George Obulutsa

Kenya, along with Ethiopia and Somalia, is suffering from drought and millions face food shortages while their livestock die from shrinking pasture and water supply.

Beyond that, the drought could cut hydroelectric power supplies, harm sugar and tea crops and even the east African nation's world-famous wildlife, Kenya's Director of Meteorological Services, Joseph Mukabana, said.

Efforts to drill more wells, supply food and otherwise ameliorate the effect of the drought may have to be extended, he said.

"Some of the current intervention measures may need to go beyond December 2006 in some parts of the country," he said in a statement published in local newspapers.

Kenya's last rains, in the October-December rainy season, have ended and "they have performed dismally over most parts of the country," he said.

"This indicates we have already seen the last of rains in many parts of the country," until the March-May rainy season, Mukabana said.

But those likely will not offset the cumulative effect of the poor rainfall in the past year, he said.

About three-quarters of Kenya's electricity are generated by water-powered turbines near dams, whose levels will fall during the drought, he said.

Mukabana also said tea, Kenya's biggest cash crop, was at risk: "Caution is particularly given to tea-growing areas."

And wildlife watering holes could dry up, forcing the animals to look for water closer to human settlements, Makubana said.

That could cause them to leave the game parks which are Kenya's top tourist attraction, or lead the animals to be killed by people protecting their own water sources.

President Mwai Kibaki this week declared food shortages in the arid north and some coastal areas a national disaster. The government estimates that at least 2.5 million Kenyans are facing famine.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said on Thursday there were "people who may have died because of hunger," but declined to give a death toll. Local media have reported at least 30 deaths from drought-caused famine so far.

(Additional reporting by Wangui Kanina)

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