Images of dry skin hanging on to the protruding bone structure of those on the brink of death by starvation are not about to let the conversation on the food crisis die down. The same images that caused an uproar are what must’ve driven the government to deny any occurrence of death related starvation while trying to save face over their failure to act on warnings given before.
This has however been contradicted by several media reports and officials on-ground confirming that by 13th March, there were approximately 5 people who died in Turkana. It sure takes a brave man to admit his mistakes and forge ahead with lessons, but Kenya battles with a goldfish memory that sees us handling one crisis to the next with zero preparation as is the case with the droughts and floods.
This conversation was taken to the floor of the Senate where Nominated Senator Abshiro Halake termed the failure of our leaders to provide and protect their citizens, a crime against humanity. More Senators acknowledged the food crisis and blamed the county governments for inadequate planning to avert the food shortage. Almost in unison, they wanted those responsible for allowing this crisis to happen brought to book.
But who’s really at fault? The National Government has sustained significant punches in the wave of criticism, with stakeholders and Kenyans generally questioning their slow response rate and the inability of government agencies to provide efficient channels that’ll swiftly move food from regions with an excess to those without.
That, however, didn’t spare the county governments whose accountability was questioned as to how they used their budgets to reduce poverty and inequality. It is in the same breadth that Kakamega Senator, Cleophas Malala brought forth the question of Turkana’s spending of their Equalization fund in averting this crisis.
His concerns proved that MPs are of the notion that the Governors should have been in a position to prevent this hunger crisis by tapping into the Equalization Fund to feed their population. But, were the monies released to begin with?
On April 19th 2018, the National Treasury PS Kamau Thugge stunned the National Cohesion and Equal Opportunity Committee after revealing that only 1.1 billion out of the 12.4 billion had been released since the 2010 constitution. The news did not sit well with the MPs who were under the impression that the kitty was disbursed after parliament passed the Equalization Fund Appropriation Act, 2018. That committee meeting and other news reports had a section of leaders on record expressing their disappointment on the delay of the fund’s disbursement. They termed this as a lack of political goodwill in pushing for development in marginalized counties. It is quite puzzling as to what the hang-up could be yet this is a fund anchored in the constitution and is an important component in addressing inequalities through driving development in the entire nation.
With the Big 4 Agenda in mind, isn’t it in the Executive’s interests to disburse these funds that would make attaining this possible? When President Kenyatta leads Kenyans in crossing over to a New Year, he likes to gauge the milestones his government has achieved in that particular year. Topping that list of achievements is often the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which shows the size of an economy and does not mean much to most people when even a single life is lost to starvation. Enough of the bravado, its time our governments focus on the quality of life of the people below the pyramid, as they are the bulk of Kenya’s population.