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NAIROBI, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The Kenya Red Cross Society and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Tuesday appealed for 25 million U.S. dollars to help 1 million Kenyans in need of food assistance.


The IFRC warned that the number of people now in need of food assistance has reached 3 million -- well over double the number recorded in December 2016.


Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society and Vice President of the IFRC said the drought situation is getting worse every day, warning that 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," Gullet said in a statement issued in Nairobi.


The charity said the escalation of the number of people in need of food aid shows no sign of slowing down, with the government indicating that this figure could climb to 4 million in the coming weeks.


The Kenya Red Cross Society and the IFRC have announced a dramatic revision of their emergency relief efforts that will now target just over 1 million people.


The previous version of the operation sought 9.1 million Swiss francs (around 9.2 million U.S. dollars) to support approximately 340,000 people.


"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.


"This is an emergency that will not improve without help. We are calling on our partners to urgently support." Gullet said.


Half of the East African nation is affected by the drought brought on by a third consecutive year of unreliable rains.


Below average rains are "causing thirst and hunger, decimating livestock, destroying livelihoods, spreading disease, and causing large movements of people," according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).


The latest appeal is a complement to Kenya's ongoing nine-month response plan which faces a funding gap of 108 million dollars.


The situation in Kenya forms part of what has become a historic food crisis in East Africa where an estimated 22.9 million people have been classified by the UN as critically food insecure in Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as in north-east Nigeria.


"We are running out of words to describe the situation in affected parts of Kenya, and across the region," said Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC Regional Director for Africa.


"Our message is simple: humanitarian organizations 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"."


Latest surveys from the areas worst-affected by the drought show that there are more than 340,000 children under the age of five who are acutely malnourished and in need of immediate support.


Malnutrition rates are above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent in many parts of the country, climbing as catastrophically high as 32 per cent in Mandera in the north-east. There are also 37,000 pregnant and lactating women who are not getting the nutrition they desperately need.


The expanded Kenya Red Cross SocietyIFRC operation focuses on cash transfers; health and nutrition; livelihoods strengthening; water, sanitation and hygiene and food security.


It will build on work that has been underway for months. So far, the Red Cross has provided more than 13,000 families in areas hit hard by the drought with unconditional cash transfers, a response mechanism that empowers recipients to address their needs in the most efficient and dignified way possible.


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