“Soon there will be nothing here but dust”

In the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa, the world looks above all to Somalia. But in Kenya, too, millions of people are threatened. A bishop now accuses his country's government of downplaying the catastrophe.

"The press and international organizations are just shouting out the situation, but the government is playing dumb," Zacharia Kahuthu, bishop of the Kenyan Evangelical Lutheran Church told epd in Nairobi on Monday (01.08.2011). UN says up to 3.5 million Kenyans could be in need of food aid. Currently, some 2.4 million people in the East African country are at risk of hunger.

A few days ago, a government spokesman said that there were no known deaths from starvation in Kenya. Kahuthu accused the government of glossing over the situation with an eye to the upcoming 2012 elections. "If the rains don't come soon, there will be nothing but dust here," bishop warned in face of areas particularly affected by drought. In the Maasai-inhabited areas of southern Nairobi, there are already reports of starvation and suicides because men can no longer feed their families, he said.

"We have enough water" According to the bishop, the hunger crisis in Kenya could be easily solved if the political will were there: "We have enough water, from Kilimanjaro, from Lake Victoria, in our rivers."But this water is used to irrigate the farms that grow flowers for export. The population is literally running on dry land, he said. Flowers are one of Kenya's most important economic goods, with an annual turnover of almost 400 million euros, but they have been controversial for years because of their ecological footprint.

 

There are simple ways to solve the crisis, such as building more dams and drilling boreholes, the bishop added. "We could have enough food for everyone today, it's simply a matter of making the right decisions and taking the right actions," Kahuthu said. In Kenya, however, there is not enough foresight, "because the political agenda does not provide for it".

Kahuthu spoke out against international support outside of emergency and refugee assistance. "It is first up to us to ask what we can do as Kenyans," he said. "Then when we discover that we can't implement all the projects, we will let you know. But only then."

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