No Excuse For Hunger, Death In Turkana
Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 00:00 -- BY SANTETO OLE TIAMPATI
Kenya is among the community of nations that in 2000 committed to a blueprint acceded the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions to the realization of the eight (8) United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that range from halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
The current horrifying reports of thousands of Turkana children skipping school due to escape hunger and over 5,000 Turkana pastoralist’s crossing over to Uganda in pursuit of their daily bread as well as souring rates of malnutrition must make every Kenyan curl with shame. It is common knowledge that indigenous peoples’ resident in the Kenya’s North live in alarming conditions of extreme poverty and marginalization despite the fact that next year (2015) Kenya is expected to have met its obligations under the MDGs especially halving extreme hunger and reducing child mortality. The obtaining reality puts this commitment by state into sharp perspective considering that the state has been submitting its progress reports to the United Nations regarding the implementation of MDGs.
The Kenyan Constitution under article 43 guarantees Kenyans economic and social rights which include the highest attainable standard of health as well as freedom form hunger and the right to adequate food of acceptable quality. The current situation in Turkana is in contravention of this constitutional prerogative and brings to sharp focus the inefficiency of the state in articulating pre-emptive measures to avert such crises as famines and drought.
Indeed, in the last government, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) was created whose main responsibilities are to develop and revise drought contingency plans, determine activities eligible for funding by the National Drought and Disaster Contingency Fund (NDDCF), approve drought contingency finance against the triggers in drought contingency plans, and ensures the accountable use of these funds by county and community-based drought management structures and to coordinate the implementation of all drought mitigation, emergency response, and recovery activities at national, county and community levels.
With the existence of the NDMA why did it have to take this long for the requisite interventions to be activated to address the first indications of drought in Turkana and elsewhere yet it is common knowledge with climate change droughts have become more frequent and most pastoralists counties are classified as high or medium risk areas? Did it have to get to crisis levels for the state agencies to react?
Indeed one of the contributing factors to poverty in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) is reactive as opposed to pre-emptive strategies which can be traced to the colonial era and the subsequent destruction of indigenous knowledge and interventions in the guise of modernization. From the colonial era, pastoralists and other indigenous communities’ narratives are replete with traumatic experiences with droughts, famines, and insecurity and healthcare interventions by the duty bearers. It is only a few years back when the face of a malnourished Turkana child was splashed globally as the face of Kenya’s hunger and destitution. The recurrent question therefore is: since droughts and famines are cyclical and therefore predictable; what measures have been put in place to ensure that no Kenyan succumbs to effects of hunger and drought? In fact, could mainstream development be regarded as one of the root causes of the myriad problems afflicting Kenya’s pastoralists and other marginalized communities?
One of the universal contributors to failed policies and projects is lack of community consultations and participation in designing and implementing policies and projects which directly affect their whole scope of lives. Indeed under article 56 of the constitution the state is obligated to put affirmative measures in place to ensure minorities and marginalized groups are represented in governance and other spheres of life and have reasonable access to water, health and infrastructure. To what extent has this been articulated in addressing decision making at drought and crises management and intervention levels?
Turkana is on the trajectory to becoming the largest contributor to the exchequer following the recent discovery of massive oil and water reserves. It is however ironic that, the resident communities are the prime victims of the vagaries of drought and famine. This goes to confirm the perception that in Kenya; communities within areas endowed with natural resources form the first casualties of poverty, development aggression, environmental destruction and takeover of territories with subsequent destruction of livelihoods and cultures as has been witnessed among indigenous peoples globally because of the lack of participation and consultations.
With this stark reality it will be interesting to see what kind of report the Kenya government shall present to the United Nations in 2015 on its achievement of the MDGs based on the reality on the ground especially in Kenya’s North where currently hunger is their daily bread and education remains a pipedream. The County governments should be strengthened and equipped to become the initial points of intervention in times of such calamities as droughts and famines.
Santeto ole Tiampati is the National Coordinator: Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya