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KENYA: NAIROBI, December 23, 2005 (CISA) -As the festive season begins, at least twelve people have reportedly died of famine in northern Kenya while thousands more are at risk of starvation in various parts of the nation.

The deaths occurred in Elwak in Mandera District.

Five famine-related deaths were reported last week in Mwingi District of Eastern Provicne.

Newspaper and television pictures showed severely malnourished children and adults reduced to walking frames by lack of food and water.

Carcasses of livestock killed by drought are strewn in the fields in parts of the arid Northeastern, Rift Valley and Eastern provinces.

The government says more than 100,000 people are faced with food shortages on the east coast due to a prolonged drought.

Mandera District Commissioner Kimani Waweru was quoted saying lack of rain had caused the situation to deteriorate badly. "We have moved from a situation of drought to one of famine. The situation is not just bad, it is very, very bad."

More than 30 per cent of livestock in the area have died due to the drought, he said.

United Nations agencies warn that 2.5 million Kenyans face famine until February next year unless food aid pleas are met.

The World Food Programme is appealing for $127 million for emergency operations in the drought-affected areas while the UN children's fund, Unicef, says it needs $4 million to save more than 20,000 children hit by famine in northern Kenya.