News / Africa

Kenya Minister ‘Satisfied’ With Effort to Combat Drought, Famine

Turkana women wait for food relief at Kalok Tonyang in the Turkana district northwest of Nairobi, August 9, 2011
Turkana women wait for food relief at Kalok Tonyang in the Turkana district northwest of Nairobi, August 9, 2011

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  • Clottey interview with Esther Murugi, Kenya’s Special Programs minister

Peter Clottey

Kenya’s Special Programs minister Esther Murugi says she is satisfied with the government’s response in combating drought and famine, especially in the north of the country.

“Currently, we are feeding 4.4 million Kenyans,” said Murugi. “Northern Kenya had more famine than any other part because they are pastoralists and their animals have perished, so they have no livelihood. But, currently the government is providing food for all vulnerable persons.”

Murugi said Kenya has stepped up efforts to combat the famine, which has affected tens of thousands of its citizens.

“Initially, we used to give them about 2,000 bags of maize per district [but] now we have increased it to 4,000 [bags of maize and] 6,000 bags of beans,” said Murugi. “We are also adding high protein food for malnourished children, lactating mothers and the elderly.”

But critics say the administration failed to prepare for a possible drought or famine, despite repeated warnings.  Murugi denied the charge.

“We warned even the pastoralists as early as October last year.  We advised them to sell their animals before they lose their body weight so that they can have some money… to restock their animals when the weather is good. I think the government is doing as much as it can,” said Murugi.

She said the crisis is challenging the old way of doing things.

“We must change the way we live because pastoralism is no longer viable, and we have to look at other ways of livelihood,” said Murugi. “We also should not depend on rainfall but look at ways of doing irrigation to improve our agriculture.”

She also said Nairobi is working closely with international humanitarian agencies including the World Food Program (WPF) who she said “have been feeding 1.6 million Kenyans.”

Murugi added that her government will continue its efforts to combat the famine despite the criticism.

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