Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Failure of planning by Kenya goverment to blame for famine

Suddenly there is drought again! Although some the pictures we see once again maybe shocking this is perennial shame that we face each year as a country. Personally am no stranger to stories of people, including children dying due to starvation.

I have witnessed animals dying in their hundreds, sometimes in their thousands, men and women suffering from scorching sun with no water to quench their thirst. But this year, the situation has gotten out of hand.

Ethiopia, Somalia and northern Kenya is facing its worst drought in 60 years with 10 million people said to face starvation and the UN reporting this as an ‘emergency situation’.

During this time, as much as I wish I was in Kenya covering first hand about the situation in the region, am instead in the UK attached to one of the biggest newspaper in the world The Guardian and I can only rely on information I get by friends and contacts in the ground and the stories I read about the situation, but then again again I can actually relate to it.

In Kenya, the situation could have been avoided, the dry spell was long predicted and the government could have acted sooner but as always we never act until the situation gets desperate.

Personally I have the Kenyan government to blame, they have failed to invest in arid and semi-arid areas which has caused the regions to be perennially vulnerable to drought.

Once you are in the region you will feel the absence of infrastructure and basic services such as health and education. The limit access to national and international market has made the lands vulnerable.

Two years ago, National Drought Contingency Fund was formed to accumulate money for drought responses during good years and quickly disburse it during times of need, but this was never to happen.

Despite the presence of drought warning system, the government strategies remain gloomily wanting, therefore the country is again caught unprepared and in dire need of humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this year through its Ministry of Agriculture, the government reported that there was food stock to last for almost a year and contingency measures were put in place following drought forecasts.

Four months after the announcement, 3.5 million are facing starvation in the country begging the question where did the stock go?As if it’s not bad enough with the worst crisis of drought, famine emerge at a time when the food prices have risen to an alarming level.

The situation is made worse by the hundreds of refugees arriving  from Somalia who flee the war torn country crossing the border into Kenya in one of the biggest refugee camp which is now on the verge of collapse because of its high population.

The biggest setback faced by Kenya like many other African countries, is lack of forward planning and inadequate response to crisis.

This should serve as  a lesson to the Kenyan government and the East Africa as a whole, a contingency plan for food security should be planned given the known of drought cycle.

Urgent reviews of the food security policy and its sustainability should again be planned and anything short of this would spell a vicious cycle of more doom come next year.

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