Monday, 31 October 2011

A visit from Kenya, Part Two

As well as assisting her husband, Robert, with his job as World In Need’s East Africa Director, Alice Mulumbi has a busy life as mother to her four children, carer for the children of others who have become unable to look after their families themselves, director of the Nancy George Academy and manager of the Mulumbi family farm in the village of Likuyana, in Soy, North Western Kenya.

Managing the farm is, in itself, a full time job. At this time of year, Alice would normally be working on the harvest, starting at dawn each day and working till well after night has fallen, gathering the crops in before the heavy rains set in in November. She also looks after chickens, and gathers eggs which she sells to supplement the family income.

Farming is a precarious occupation. Last year, North Western Kenya was hit by heavier than usual rains which led to catastrophic flooding, which washed away buildings, including classrooms at the Nancy George Academy, and ruined crops. Without the crops, not only was there no food to store and sell, but there were no seeds to plant this year either, which in turn led to greater hardship which is ongoing.

Perversely, while North Western Kenya was being devastated by too much rain, North Eastern Kenya was part of a large area that has received little or no rain for years, leading to drought and famine. The situation has become dire in recent months, with desperate people crossing the border from Somalia in search of food, swelling the numbers at Daddaab camp, the largest refugee camp in the world. Built to hold ninety thousand people, it is currently home to four times that many people.

The situation for the starving of Somalia has become much worse in recent weeks. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organisation with links to al-Qaeda, is trying to gain power in Somalia and had already made it difficult and dangerous for the starving to make their way to Kenya for help. In recent weeks, they launched attacks on the Kenyan island of Lamu, popular with tourists. They killed one man, kidnapping his wife and another western woman. Trying to prevent a repeat of this, the Kenyan authorities have tried to close the border, making security as tight as it can be. This may stop the terrorists crossing into the country, but it also prevents the needy people from reaching help.

The attacks on Lamu have had devastating effects on the Kenyan economy. As the main tourist season starts, many westerners cancelled their planned visits, depriving the country of their tourist dollars. Coupled with the droughts and the aftermath of last year’s floods, this is dreadful news indeed for the people of Kenya, and will increase the numbers living in poverty. The work of World In Need, and the care given by people like Alice and Robert are going to be more needed than ever.

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