Death by starvation is the same as State terrorism. Innocent lives taken away due to wilful negligence by the State.
Every year, the nation reacts to death and starvation splashed on TV screens with hollow pledges that it will not recur. Malnourished Kenyans wasting away under extreme hunger and thirst. Unashamedly, officials are more interested in downplaying the death statistics and outright denial.
Yet, life is sacred. It is as painful to lose innocent lives through utter neglect and dereliction of duty as in terrorist attacks. Recently, DCI stated that those plundering public resources are the same as the terrorists who attacked Dusit complex. I couldn’t agree more.
The government has a duty to ensure all Kenyans have food and water as basic essential provisions. Several institutions exist to advise the government on the status of the food situation, including monitoring the drought situation.
The National Drought Management Agency (NDMA) issues monthly early warning bulletins on the status of drought and famine in the country, shared with all the relevant ministries.
NDMA’s December 2018 web-based bulletin sounded the alarm on “depletion and worsening food situation” in pastoral areas in Turkana, Baringo and several other counties.
In February 2017, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported: “The number of food-insecure people more than doubled — from 1.3-2.7 million. Some 357,285 children and pregnant and lactating mothers are acutely malnourished. Half the counties are affected.”
In May, it reported: “More than 2.6 million Kenyans were severely food insecure as of 26 May 2017 — and this number was rapidly rising.”
It went on: “High levels of malnutrition are prevalent across the arid and semi-arid lands. Severe drought has dried up water resources in half of Kenya’s 47 counties and an estimated three million people lack access to clean water.”
In January 2018, Unicef reported that “drought conditions that are expected to persist into 2018 have left 3.4 million people severely food-insecure and an estimated 500,000 people without access to water.” Another 482,882 children needed treatment for acute malnutrition, including 104,614 with severe acute malnutrition.
Last January, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned that, due to “significantly below-average short rains in October to December 2018”, deterioration in food security will be “widespread between February and May 2019”.
But the early warnings are just an annual ritual: There was no reaction — until pictures of dead or dying Kenyans were aired.
In 2013, the government committed itself to the Vision 2030 strategy to End Drought Emergencies (EDE) in 2014-2018 in the arid and semi-arid areas, targeting 15 million people, at a cost of Sh48 billion through NDMA. Under the strategy, there would be no famine as a result of drought.
Five years later, and after spending over Sh12 trillion, the strategy is gathering dust on the shelves. We also don’t hear about multi-billion-shilling dams in these arid areas, even phantom ones.
Regrettably, the clueless county ‘fat cat’ administrations, whose raison d’être is closer services to the mwananchi, live on cloud nine, oblivious of the suffering of the residents. At their meeting in Garissa as pastoralist leaders last month, impending drought and famine did not feature!
No government official even bothers to visit the starving or condole with the bereaved. Worse, they blame the weather, not themselves.
And the government still talks of building commuter trains, digitalising IDs and building nuclear power plants when it cannot feed its poor?
Mr Kerrow is a former senator for Mandera County. [email protected]