With the global media focusing on the famine in Somalia many people have been asking us what is happening in Kenya so I have put together some of the most common questions and answered them.
Q. Do you have drought where you are?
A. Yes northern Kenya is suffering from the same long running drought conditions that are affecting Somalia and parts of Ethiopia. However much of the southern half of Kenya, especially the south west is completely unaffected and food production in these areas is continuing.
Q. Is it bad?
A. Yes it’s bad, in many areas it’s been going on for more than 2 years. It also comes hard on the heals of a very bad drought 6 years ago.
Q. Why don’t we hear anything about famine in Kenya?
A. Our area is classified by the UN as ‘emergency’ which is the stage before famine, currently only areas in neighbouring Somalia are in famine. However the only thing standing between ‘emergency’ and ‘famine’ is the delivery of food aid.
Q. Explain that please?
A. In Somalia they can’t deliver food aid to the people who need it because of the conflict. Mostly in Kenya they can deliver food to the people who need it; however there have been some problems getting food to people due to impassable roads (or no roads) and insecurity. In Kenya the focus has to be on overcoming these problems and getting food to the people who need it.
Q. Surely this area is always suffering droughts why is it so bad now?
A. People here are in trouble partly because the last drought wiped out nearly all their livestock and they haven’t had time to build their stocks back up. Almost all of their money is invested in livestock so this leaves them in a very bad position. On top of this the global rise in food prices has hit these areas especially hard. Transport cost for food here are high anyway. Many people were already spending 80% of their income on food and now prices have double, or trebled in some cases, people simply have no way to feed their families.
Q. What are you doing about it?
A. Most of the groups we work with have so far managed because they have some other source of income, not just livestock, but as the drought continues and food prices rise even further, more and more people are running out of resources to cope.
By and large the World Food Programme and its associates are doing a good job of getting food aid out to large numbers of people but as with any large scale operation there are always people who fall through the net. We are concentrating on using our local knowledge and experience to find those who need aid but are not receiving it. Then, in conjunction other small local organisations we are delivering food aid and other essentials to these people.
Q. Do you need anything?
A. Of course we need money! We need to buy food and essentials for the people we are helping. One of the great benefits we have of being local is that where ever possible we buy our goods from local businesses so that we don’t undermine the local economy (an unfortunate side effect of mass food relief operations) and those with small businesses here can also continue to feed their families themselves.