USAID pledges Kenya $255 mln to fight drought, appeals to rich countries to help

NAIROBI, July 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. development agency USAID on Friday said it would give Kenya $255 million in emergency assistance to tackle severe drought.

Some 4.1 million people in the East African nation are facing acute food shortages, the government says,while the number of cases of child malnutrition has surged by half in parts of the country to 942,000 in the last three months.

The funding commitmentcomes in addition to $65 million that USAID had already provided this year, USAID administrator Samantha Power said.

"We need other countries to step up and join us," she said, warning that the food crisis could spill over into other areas like education since hungry children can't go to school.

The government has so far spent 12.6 billion shillings ($106.28 million) to help people affected by drought but it has a shortfall of more than 15 billion shillings, said Margaret Kobia, the minister responsible for special programmes.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has hit the global food supply chain, was increasing drought-related suffering in Kenya and the rest of the region, Power said.

More than 50 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity this year in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, the World Food Programme said in a joint statement with other agencies on Friday.

The catastrophe has been caused by the failure of rainfall in most parts of the region, and compounded by the crisis in Ukraine, which has sent prices of wheat and maize higher.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Nick Macfie

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