News / Africa

    Kenyan Lawmaker Warns of Drought Fatalities

    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 Mohammed Abdi Affey, a parliamentarian from northern Kenya

    Peter Clottey

    A lawmaker is warning that many Kenyans affected by the drought hitting the Horn of Africa could lose their lives if current conditions persist.

    Mohammed Abdi Affey, a parliamentarian from northern Kenya and a former ambassador to Somalia, has introduced a motion in parliament to find effective ways of resolving the crisis.

    Analysts say East Africa is experiencing its worst drought in more than 50 years.  Parts of Somalia have been declared to be hit by famine, and some predict it could spread to other parts of the Horn.

    Recent news reports say at least 14 people recently died in Kenya’s northwestern Turkana region from hunger.

    Kenya has declared the ongoing drought and food emergency in parts of the north a national disaster.

    “There is now every possibility that we might lose people in large numbers if the situation continues as it is [and] if there are no significant and intensive interventions done in [the affected] parts of the country,” said Affey. “The situation is bad and it needs real support from all.”

    Affey said the situation has gotten worse adding that a majority of residents in his constituency have lost their livelihoods.

    “We have at the moment lost more than 70 percent of our livestock,” said Affey.

    He praised a non-governmental scheme called Kenya for Kenyans which encourages citizens to donate cash or food to areas suffering food shortages.

    “I want to congratulate those Kenyans who have started the important initiative… who have traveled the length and breadth of the region and have ascertained firsthand what it’s going through,” said Affey. “We are proud of Kenyans who really understand that they cannot allow Kenyans anywhere in this country to succumb or to suffer as a result of famine or drought.”

    Critics say the administration failed to prepare for a potential drought or famine, despite repeated warnings. Affey echoed similar sentiments.

    “The expert[s] had predicted one year ago that the situation was going to be what we are going through today,” said Affey. “So what Kenyans expected were sufficient government efforts to prepare people and to prepare for the catastrophe Kenyans are going though now. But, that has not happened.”

    Meanwhile, the United States has announced an additional $17 million in funding to help Horn of Africa nations deal with regional drought and famine.

    The United States has so far given over $560 million in humanitarian assistance to the region, including $105 million announced Monday.

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