The Star (Kenya) - - Politics -

F you think back on the prom­ises made dur­ing the 2013 Gen­eral Elec­tion, you will re­mem­ber pledges about free lap­tops for school­child­ren; loans for youth and women’s groups; the in­fra­struc­ture for sup­ply of clean wa­ter and elec­tric­ity. And so on. What you will not re­call is any pledges to end the rou­tine famines that fol­low on the sea­sons of drought that reg­u­larly stalk North­east­ern Kenya. In­deed, no lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date stood up to de­clare that he or she would end the scourges of famine and hunger in Kenya. This is be­cause Kenya is a coun­try in which there is no ex­cuse for famine.

Some years ago, the ‘Free­dom from Hunger’ an­nual fund-raising walk was a prom­i­nent fea­ture of Kenyan life, with school­child­ren, as much as adults, seek­ing spon­sor­ship to raise money for a char­i­ta­ble fund that could be used to buy and sup­ply food to those parts of Kenya that peren­ni­ally ex­pe­ri­enced drought. But with time, less and less is heard of this ini­tia­tive – such fund-raising walks (or even runs) are now more fo­cused on ma­jor killer dis­eases: As in­deed is only ap­pro­pri­ate. What am I get­ting at? Sim­ply that we should have long passed the stage in our eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment where or­di­nary Kenyans had to fear famine or hunger. We should long be­fore now have achieved com­pre­hen­sive food se­cu­rity. No­body in Kenya should ever die of hunger.

In a coun­try ded­i­cat­ing bil­lions of shillings to a new stan­dard gauge rail­way; yet more bil­lions to road and wa­ter projects; how is it pos­si­ble that a famine long pre­dicted by our own me­te­o­rol­o­gists leads to wide­spread star­va­tion? Why have our of­fi­cials in the plan­ning min­istry not been able to look ahead; see that there is a famine loom­ing; and mo­bilise na­tional re­sources to deal with this emer­gency?

Why is it that only af­ter deaths have oc­curred; only af­ter there is a huge na­tional out­cry in the me­dia; only then does the gov­ern­ment move to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion?

This is not a mat­ter that should be left to de­vel­op­ment part­ners – it is point­less to boast that Kenya meets 97 per­cent of an­nual gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture through lo­cal taxes, if we are go­ing to run to the donor com­mu­nity to beg for food to save Kenyan lives.

Nor should this be a mat­ter for pri­vate philanthropy.

Our sta­tus as a mid­dle-in­come coun­try counts for very lit­tle if we can­not guar­an­tee food for the whole pop­u­la­tion, and Kenyans still die from hunger, ev­ery few years.

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