Starvation and Struggle in Kenya
Two articles published last month describe some of the
dire problems facing Kenya. One article was from The New York Times and
the other from The Washington Post. Ten million people face starvation
in this East African country, partly due to the absence of farmers in
crucial food-producing areas who fled their homes last year and have
not returned due to threats from ethnic conflicts. Top Kenyan
politicians, who are among the highest paid in the world (even though
Kenya is one of the world’s poorest countries), have been implicated in
scandals involving tourism, fuel, guns and corn. The United Nations had
to request the resignation of the country’s policy chief and attorney
general after an investigation revealed that more than 500 people had
been killed by police death squads. Tourism has gone down about 35
percent in 2008 compared with 2007, leaving even more people
unemployed. Most of Kenya’s politicians are avoiding urgent issues like
ethnic conflict, land reform, constitutional reform, and the dangerous
culture of impunity.
To make things worse, a virulent new version of a deadly fungus called stem rust is ravaging wheat in Kenya’s most fertile fields and threatening one of the world’s principal food crops. Although farmers thought they had defeated this fungus 50 years ago, researchers in South Africa and Minnesota discovered that stem rust had acquired the ability to break through the resistance that had protected wheat for decades. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, eighty percent of Asian and African wheat varieties are now susceptible to stem rust. Since the fungus had spread to Iran, the FAO warned last March that “Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, all major wheat producers, are more threatened by the fungus and should be on high alert.” Following last year’s grain scarcity and food riots, the budding epidemic displays the fragility of the food supply in poor countries and show how vulnerable the ever-growing global population might be to deadly pathogens. Throughout the developing world and particularly in Kenya, hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers are vulnerable to such dangers.
Let us offer our prayers to Kenya and all those suffering from hunger-related problems throughout the world, and hope that international cooperation will help solve these problems.
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