Tuesday, September 08, 2009

4 million people are starving in Kenya

A story this morning has a gripping account of the situation faced in Kenya. The country is going through it's worst drought in over a decade. Over 4 million Kenyans are at the point of starving to death.

From The Age, reporter Jeffrey Gettleman Kokori profiles one such victim.

THE sun feels closer in Kenya, more intense, more personal. As Philip Lolua waits under a tree for food, heatwaves ripple up from the desert surface, blurring the dead animal carcasses sprawled in front of him.

His green pasture has turned to dust, his once mighty herd of goats, sheep and camels have died of thirst, his three-year-old son recently died of hunger, and he does not look to be far from death himself.

A devastating drought is sweeping across Kenya, stirring up tension in the slums where the water taps have run dry, and spawning ethnic conflict in the hinterland as communities fight over the last remaining pieces of fertile grazing land.

The twin hearts of Kenya's economy, agriculture and tourism, are especially imperilled. The game animals that safari-goers fly halfway around the world to see are keeling over from hunger and the savanna is littered with sun-bleached bones.

Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia have become almost synonymous with drought and famine. But Kenya is one of the most developed countries in Africa, home to a robust economy.

The aid community has been predicting a disaster for months, saying that the rains had failed once again and that this could be the worst drought in more than a decade. But the Kenyan Government, paralysed by infighting and political manoeuvring, seemed to shrug off the warnings.

So far, a huge international aid operation to avert mass hunger has not kicked in, or at least not to the degree needed. The United Nations World Food Program estimates that nearly 4 million Kenyans - about a tenth of the population - urgently need food. ''Red lights are flashing across the country,'' the agency said.

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