Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A row between the government and the World Food Programme over the distribution of relief food has erupted which is quite unfortunate. Apparently, the relief agency is making demands on who should give out the food, a move the government is viciously opposed to. But as the two parties engage in an unseemly spat, hundreds of people are starving in the traditionally food-deficient regions of Northern Kenya and other areas.
Admittedly, both sides have valid reasons for holding fast to their positions. But here we are dealing with a matter of life and death. It is inconceivable that people should be dying of hunger when there is food in stores, just because of conceptual differences between the relevant authorities. There is evidence that the relief food has been misappropriated and the programme badly managed in the past. But that is not to say that there are no cases of good practices to be emulated.

The government and the WFP must resolve their differences quickly and resume distribution of relief food. People cannot die of hunger just because some bureaucrats differ over the logistics.

On Monday, Bura MP Dr Abdi Nuh, Dujis MP Mr Aden Duale and Turkana Central MP Mr Ekwee Ethuro claimed politics were at play and said locals would not allow WFP to force or dictate any agency on them. However, in a swift rejoinder, WFP denied claims that it was imposing any agency stating that applying agencies must meet the criteria set for selecting distributing partners.

WFP Public Information Officer Ms Rose Ogola said there was a lot of political interference in the Turkana Central case in particular and that distribution was going on in areas that have no interference. "We don’t make any impositions, Kenya Red cross is our largest distributing partner already in six districts and nobody else has that kind of distribution," she said.
She said the agency has to meet the procedures in Garissa and Turkana Central before it is picked.
"Due process was not followed in Turkana central and there is a lot of political interests and we don’t feel we should be pushed," she said. The officer said the agency will be meeting with the Government to resolve the issue by the end of the week. "We cannot just pick anyone, it is a fair process," she said.

WFP in collaboration with the Government selects agencies that are used in food distribution. The Government provides a fraction of what is distributed by the relief agency.

Meanwhile, The US has donated Sh2.4 billion ($30m) to boost food security even as thousands of people are starving in Northern Kenya.

The row over delay in the distribution of relief food escalated even further with Fafi MP Aden Sugow telling off three colleagues for criticising the World Food Programme. Sugow said WFP provides more than half of food aid distributed in the affected regions and, hence, was justified to demand transparency in the distribution. A dispute involving the lucrative deal to distribute relief food in Turkana, Garissa and Tana River districts has stalled the emergency programme amid reports famine stricken residents have turned to dog meat.

On Tuesday, Sugow, who is Public Service assistant minister, said fellow lawmakers in Garissa County couldn’t purport to block the WFP from operating in the region. MPs Abdi Nuh (Bura), Aden Duale (Dujis) and Ekwee Ethuro (Turkana Central) on Monday accused the WFP of attempting to impose international agencies as lead distributing agencies over the Kenya Red Cross Society.