Kenyans fundraise for drought, rap govt

2011-08-08 14:46

Nairobi - Kenya's government and politicians have come under fire for their response to the drought ravaging parts of the country as citizens raised half a billion shillings ($5.3m) to help the hungry.

Some 3.5 million Kenyans have been left hungry by the drought ravaging the Horn of Africa, prompting mobile phone companies and local banks to launch a "Kenyans for Kenya" fundraising drive two weeks ago.

While society mobilised, government spokesperson Alfred Mutua said last month the government "does not have any official reports of a Kenyan that has died as a result of hunger," sparking an outcry in the media.

And the government has come in for further criticism for failing to distribute abundant harvests in the breadbasket western and central regions as millions face hunger in the drought-struck northern and eastern regions.

"Reports that farmers in some areas have more than they know what to do with, at a time when people in other areas are starving, is an indictment of a government that is both incoherent and dysfunctional during crises," the Daily Nation newspaper said in an editorial.

"Or could it be that those responsible are too busy campaigning for higher office to worry too much about those starving in parts of the country?" it asked.

The drought has killed tens of thousands of people in neighbouring Somalia according to the United Nations

Kenya is to hold its first elections next year since plunging into weeks of bloody violence sparked by the disputed 2007 presidential poll, and some politicians have already begun campaigning.

The Star newspaper carried a cartoon depicting key presidential contenders as vultures telling a starving man holding a bowl and a voters card near a ballot box, "don't die yet, I need to launch my statehouse bid," referring to the presidential residence.

Images of starving children

More than 300 000 Kenyans took part in the fundraising, sending money through mobile phone transfers and making bank deposits, while several companies held a major fundraising last week.

A police officer last week donated his entire July salary to the Kenya Red Cross for the drought crisis.

"I am very touched by the images of starving children and emaciated women. We need to do all we can to ease the situation and save our fellow Kenyans," the officer, Hashim Mohammed Elmogo, said.

The Kenya Red Cross at the weekend sent 150 tons of food to the affected areas of Wajir, Garisa and Mandera in the northeast of the country.

About 12 million people in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia are battling hunger in the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in May declared that drought had hit parts of the country and ordered steps be taken to help those affected, including importing more staple cereals.

The east African country's arid northern and eastern regions have been neglected by successive governments, with no proper roads or electricity, and have suffered repeated drought.

However, response to droughts in the region have remained emergency acts, with little effort put into finding long-term solutions.