Just a day after the launch of the initiative dubbed “KENYANS for KENYA”, an initiative aimed at bringing together key players in the corporate sector and media in a massive effort to raise Sh500 million _ in four weeks_ towards famine relief for over 3 million Kenyans facing starvation, the government spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua in his weekly press briefing at KICC has denied that there is any Kenyan dying of starvation!
“So far the government does not have any official reports of a Kenyan that has died as a result of the hunger, if you have a confirmed death of a person who has died as a result of starvation not just old age or other diseases, let us know,” Mutua said.
These words were not received so well by angry Kenyans, who deemed Mutua’s words as out rightly “ignorant and totally insensitive”. Despite the bashing he got from Kenyans across the country who seam to understand the gravity of the situation perhaps better, Dr Mutua seems unwilling to take back a single word but rather maintains that he was misquoted by the media.
FACE OF STARVATION
You don’t need to witness the situation first hand; the gruesome images of malnourished adults and children; the withered flesh and visible born structures, summed up by the horrific tales captured on our TV stations, is enough to tell it all. What is heartening however is that Kenyans are not insensitive to the plight afflicting their compatriots and have come out in solidarity to help alleviate the crisis.
The response to the Kenyans for Kenya campaign, spearheaded by SAFARICOM AND KCB FOUNDATIONS, has been overwhelming; Contributions stood at Sh5.5 million by close of the day when it was launched, rising to Sh19 million, through M-Pesa contributions alone on the second day.
Money raised through the campaign is expected to be used to finance a spate of short and medium term interventions meant to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable groups and eventually fortify food security in the long term.
Short-term interventions include buying Unimix, a nutritious pre-cooked meal for school feeding programs, health centers and other locations which will target the vulnerable like the aged and mothers. The money will also be used to buy and transport water from existing water sources. A ton of Unimix costs Ksh 105,000 and can feed 100 children for 4 to 5 months, whereas trucking of 15,000 litres of water within a distance of 100 kilometers will cost Sh25, 000.
Medium-term interventions include ensuring access by over 250,000 persons, to safe and clean drinking water through rehabilitation or sinking of boreholes and construction of green-houses in schools and areas where there is access to water via drip irrigation.
What is rather appalling about the food calamity facing a section of Kenyans is that farmers on the banks of rivers Turkwel and Kerio are smiling all the way to their farms claiming to have harvested 930,000 kilogrammes of grain. These farmers would have been part of the statistics of the other 400,000 families facing starvation in Turkana, the same region for that matter, were it not for an investment in an irrigation scheme facilitated by the Turkana rehabilitation programme. This is not happening miles away in the highlands of Mount Kenya, but in the same arid land of Turkana, where other residents are dying of hunger. A perfect example, that food insecurity in northern Kenya can be controlled.
This scenario clearly portrays the government’s failure and lack of political will to enhance agriculture on arid and semi-arid areas in order to provide long-term solutions to curb the food crisis in the arid northern Kenya.
The aftermath has been constant outcry over the same problem, year in, year out. Residents, who sometimes wonder if at all they are still Kenyans, have had to rely on inconsistent relief food for survival for the last five decades. It’s a shame for a country boasting 48 years of independence, and wealthy enough for her tax exempted MPs to earn a whopping sh800,000, to be incapable of feeding its own.