Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

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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