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Kenya’s Woes

D 22 avril 2017     H 05:58     A     C 0 messages


"The image of Kenya as a middle income country doesn’t do justice to the reality on the ground," Werner Schultink, country head for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told AFP. He was referring to the hunger which is plaguing the north of Turkana. In the Kibish region, squeezed between Ethiopia and South Sudan, more than half of children aged six months to five years are suffering from acute malnutrition.

In the early part of this decade, politicians made rash promises of rapid modernization that would consign to history decades of deliberate marginalization, first by British colonialists and then by Kenya’s governing elite in Nairobi, who shared a disdain for the pastoralists and their way of life.
"Expectations were disproportionate," said John Nakara, a Turkana parliamentarian. "Those changes don’t happen in five years, but in 20, at least."

That didn’t stop the promises. An ambitious plan for roads, railways and oil pipelines crossing northern Kenya was launched with great fanfare in 2012, but it has been slow in coming.
Instead Turkana remains crisscrossed with dirt tracks that become impassable when it rains, and where the few sealed sections are so badly potholed that drivers prefer the dirt shoulders.

That same year, British company Tullow Oil announced the discovery of large crude reserves in Turkana. Production is expected to begin in June, but local and national officials are still arguing over the distribution of revenues and no pipeline has yet been built, meaning the oil will have to be trucked to the port of Mombasa, more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away.
In 2013, Kenya and the UN cultural body UNESCO announced the discovery of large reserves of groundwater beneath Turkana that promised irrigation and enough water for all. But the reality has proved rather different. The aquifer holding the groundwater is hard to exploit, the water is deeper underground and less pure than predicted.

"The announcement was very optimistic and based on very limited information," said Sean Avery, a Kenya-based consultant on water issues.
Tens of thousands of pastoralists fled from Turkana in Kenya to Uganda last week to escape the drought. A total of 60,000 Turkana pastoralists and 127,000 livestock have moved to Uganda’s Karamjoa sub-region over the last seven days.

The drought remains a country-wide problem. Kenya has declared it a "national disaster" and appealed for international aid.

Three million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, and, while the response has been more effective than the last time, in 2011, still more needs to be done, aid workers say.

"In the current situation, this is clearly not enough," said Schultink.
As the drought bites, the road ahead looks longer than ever for Turkana where some 92 percent of its 1.4 million people live below the poverty line and only a fifth know how to read and write.

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