By P.Y. Tsikata (March 14th 2006)
"....children are the hope for the future of any generation of people and, if so, the world must consider the plight of these children who hold the key to Africa’s future, and respond to their call. Let’s not look on unconcerned whilst their lives are abruptly ended because of starvation....”
The call by the UN and other charitable and humanitarian organizations on the international community to donate towards the food crisis in Kenyan and other African countries in dire need of food to feed their starving populations appears to be playing out to an unresponsive community of donors who seem to be fatigued by the never-ending calls for food aid to support the starving who are in need of emergency food relief on the continent.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates more than half of Africa is now in need of urgent food assistance. As though it was an apocalypse that is unfolding on the continent, hardly does the call for international assistance to save one country dwindles than another call emerges with very distressing and heart-rending pictures.
The situation is so desperate that internal mobilization of food aid from within the continent is virtually impossible, as most countries where there seems to be no news of hunger or starvation are actually on the tenterhooks. With huge food deficits in their own stock holds, they are only but enjoying some respite. They are, therefore, counting their own grains and treading carefully not to dole out the little they have to endanger their own populations, as the crisis looms across most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Indeed, in these complex circumstances, the international community remains the only bastion of hope for the affected countries and their people. But business is as usual; whilst hope is fast fading for many who are moribund, the response so far has been as slow as a snail’s pace.
Paradoxically for Kenya, this catastrophe is unfolding months after the Columbia University and the UN Millennium Project have jointly adopted the Village of Suari, a village of close to 5,000 inhabitants located in Western Kenyan, where the two institutions are working to end hunger and disease and to give the villagers a complete makeover.
While these generous attempts by the two great institutions are in the right direction, the current situation in Kenya points to some structural deficiencies coupled with dragging dispositions on the part of stakeholders and the international community in response to issues bordering on the very survival of people on the continent.
Unlike the Tsunami, Katrina and the Pakistani earthquake all of which occurred like a bolt from the blue, the warning signals about the looming crisis in Kenya have been sent out early enough to prompt the international community to start taking steps to contain the situation to avert the unfolding disaster, but unfortunately business is as usual.
Let us face it: the UN’s much-trumpeted Millennium Development Goals, debt relief and the doubling of aid to the continent by the world’s richest countries and other charities directed towards the reduction of poverty and hunger are beginning to be fractured by these events just like other laudable measures in the past, which could not deliver the needed remedies due to lack of commitment in their implementation.
The signs are clear that, if we continue business as usual, without the commitments that are required of us in order to deliver the needed remedies to these economies to bring them back on track, we may lose it all.
Reflecting on the plight of those caught up in this vicious cycle of starvation, it is clear that they need to live for today to rekindle in them the hope of living to see tomorrows new Kenya , Niger, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia and, in fact, a transformed Africa (with a complete makeover) where poverty is halved and hunger is arrested completely.
It is depressing to behold, on the screens, the sight of some parents praying sincerely for their infant babies to close their eyes and never to open them again, hoping they may be relieved of all the pain by giving up the ghost. Others starving mothers continue to offer their breast, which must have ceased lactation for days if not weeks, to their hunger-weary children to stop them from sobbing but to no avail.
For those young ones who may survive, the lifelong effects, which may impair their physical and psychological development, are inevitable as these excruciating experiences are occurring during the most delicate periods of their lives-the brain’s most formative years.
Incontrovertibly, children are the hope for the future of any generation of people and, if so, the world must consider the plight of these children who hold the key to Africa’s future, and respond to their call. Let’s not look on unconcerned whilst their lives are abruptly ended because of starvation.
There is also the need for African governments to consider provisions that will allow for voluntary but facilitated relocation of some of these individuals caught up in this hopeless situation rather than making it difficult for them to move out of these locales. Confining people to these locales will only be suicidal, as insights into the long-term weather conditions on the continent points to a complete drying up of water resources in some locales where people are still confined. The signs are manifesting in these areas, so let us act now to reduce human pain and suffering.