For anyone who has been watching local and international news they are already too familiar with the pictures of starving children and their skinny malnourished mothers from Northern Kenya and parts of Somalia as a result of what has been called the worst drought and famine the horn of Africa has seen in 60 years.It is said that especially in the Dadaab refugee camp a child is losing their life every day,either because help reached them too late or they succumbed to the ravages of hunger that have predisposed them to illnesses.
Now for any child below the age of three years it is especially important to be well nourished because good nutrition is a buffer against common child hood illnesses and infections that are major causes of child mortality.You can read about the effects of poor nutrition especially prevalent in developing countries here.
Since 1984 when Michael Jackson and other musicians teamed up to sing the We are the World song in the USA for Africa campaign to raise funds for the very same region facing drought today,it seems nothing much has changed.We are waking up every day to pictures of children with distended stomachs,hollow eyes and sagging skin that is barely holding together famished bodies.It is 1984 all over again but on a grander scale or so it seems!
A lot of issues have cropped up over the delay in providing much needed aid, from the alleged squabbling by donors,to just lack of coordination yet every minute wasted will cost the life of a child.I watched with a growing sense of shame as the Australian and French Ministers pleaded with the international community to speed up the relief effort to reduce the loss of life at the camps,yet no senior government official from any of the countries affected has paid a visit to the area.
I went to a public university for a degree in Nutrition yet i got a job in a totally unrelated field as did most of my 20 classmates because international aid bodies would rather hire expatriates rather than local graduates for some of these jobs.
Meanwhile as the shame of the century unfolds ,Kenya is seeking to be a middle income economy in 18 years when we cannot even ensure that no Kenyan child goes to bed hungry.We can lay the blame on the weather,global warming and all manner of factors biggest load of blame falls squarely on our leaders backs.
Why almost half a century we should still be talking of hunger is a shame ,why we should be having power rationing in the name of power management beats logic for a country seeking to grow its economy.There are a lot of whys we need to be asking ourselves in the coming months leading up to the next general election and their answers lie in the kind of leadership we elect next year.
What this all boils down to is lack of vision by our political leaders.I watched with amusement when the speaker of the national assembly was disparaging the government slack lustre response to the famine crisis as they presented a check donation of over 8 million Kenya shillings from parliamentarians.The speaker,his deputy and a coterie of members of parliament were handing over the donations to Mr Abbas Gullet who has literally been the face of the drought mitigating efforts by the Kenyan private sector that has so raised over half a billion shillings in the Kenyans for Kenya campaign.
As they presented the cheque i was taken back to a week ago where i dd a road trip from Kakamega all the way through Kapsabet,Iten,eldoret,Baringo,Eldama ravine ,Nakuru,Kericho,Kisumu and back again to Kakamega. I passed acres and acres of lush green farmland full of maize in various stages of growth,at Total on our way to Kericho and all through till the tea county market stalls by the roadside were creaking under the weight of potatoes,cabbages,tomatoes and carrots and i was tempted to believe what i was seeing in the news was the work of an overactive Kenyan media.Along the road to Kisumu women were sitting by mounds of cabbages,green bananas and cabbages waiting for people to buy them while our people in Northern Kenya are starving and we are importing relief food.The rice fields of Ahero were spotting green baby stalks that bespoke of the rice crop that had been planted and was getting much needed nourishment .It is a pity my camera’s battery ran out of charge i would have been posting the photos of the bumper harvest this farmers had.
The only blight to these otherwise fertile landscape i witnessed in my trip round the rift was in Baringo where instead of lush green maize field i saw healthy goats, perched on cliff tops ,filling their bellies with leaves form the shrubs that dot the rocky terrain.
We have heard media reports of farm produce going to waste in Nyahururu because farmers had no buyers,why should people be going hungry if there is so much food.?
Because we fail to plan we are faced with images of starving Kenyans holding out tin cans for their monthly
rations of beans,maize,rice and cooking oil.In a country where many more people are abandoning farming than are taking it up,why are we watching mounds of cabbages,green banans and sacks of potatoes go to waste while peole in the north are starving?why cant we encourage this people to change their diets and thus provide a cash cow for our poor farmers .
What many peole forget is that farming is a noble profession much like being a teacher or morgue attendant,it is a job which very few peole take because it requires a sturdy body as well as a sturdy heart to keep going even when the rains fail or your crop is destroyed by pests or disease.We need to hear the government encouraging farmers by supporting them in whatever means necessary because they feed our bodies and are more important than the preacher spewing out condemnation of damned souls.
If presently we have 40 million Kenyans who are increasing at the rate of a million annually,why does our strategic grain reserve have to be at 8 million maize bags?For a country that produces so much milk and even exports most of it why do we not use more butter than margarine on our bread in the morning?why do you have to buy an imported box of cereal when you can buy a packet of millet flour and have porridge for breakfast?
The government seems to be like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights and has been taking one wrong step after another after it was declared that Kenyans were indeed dying of hunger.From our government spokesman who claimed ignorance of hungry Kenyans dying to the late response by parliamentarians when the Kenya red cross has marshaled the private sector to raise funds,it does seem that our elected leaders could as well be living in another country.
We produce enough food to feed oursleves,its our lack of planning that has had us being the laughing stock of the international community.We need to stop being beggars of everything be it expatriate experience,educational funds,funds to improve our roads to food aid,we need to atleast take pride in one thing,feeding our won peole which iwe can do with just more well though out plans .
It is time we stopped having stop gap measures to address drought and famine,we need to sit down and plan and decide that no Kenyan should ever go hungry again or die of hunger.If we can do this and demand more from our elected leaders then Kenyans will cease being the recipients of sympathetic looks and hand me downs from the donor community.