Maasai feel brunt of West’s crisis in giving

Author: By Selina Cuff in Kajiado, Kenya

Outside the skinny remains of their herds hunt in vain for a blade of grass in
a once fertile and rich land that it now blown with dust.

Drought has descended on Kajiado, Kenya and despite the presence of grey
clouds rolling over the African sky the rain refuses to come.

As drought erodes livelihoods and lives in Kenya, foreign aid that
traditionally would provide a safety net is also fading away. The reality of
Western governmental budget cuts is nowhere more evident than on the remote
Maasai plains of Kajiado where the presence of charities – like the clouds
that refuse to rain – seem like a cruel joke.

?It is sad there is a crisis here, but there is also a crisis in the West.?
Anna Kukuni of the local Kenya NGO Neighbour?s Initiative Alliance (NIA)
said. The two crises are very different: Kenya is in the midst of years long
drought that has seen dead camels and elephants litter the dry ground, a
rise in malnutrition levels and the imminent threat of death for people,
like the iconic Maasai, who have no water or food for themselves or their
dying livestock. The industrial world’s crisis is of a different order, a
recession that has cost some their homes, many more their disposable income
and punctured for others their feelings of financial security. Despite the
vastly different realities in which they are unfolding there is an echo of
East Africa’s droughts that can be heard on the high streets of the UK.

Tea prices are soaring in the Britain as the harvests fail. The echoes that
bounce back the other way are louder and more threatening.

The West?s recession is creating an aid shortage. Programmes like NIA?s food
voucher scheme – run in partnership with Irish charity Concern – that
provide hungry, vulnerable maasai with food and life essentials, whilst
boasting the local economy by using local suppliers instead of airlifting in
food that floods the market, is under threat.

Anna Kukuni said the help NIA and Concern are able to provide is severely
limited by their lack of funding. ?We would have liked to target as many
people as possible, everybody should be in the programme, but we can?t. And
honestly the food they are taking is 2,000ksh (less than £20) per family per
month- and they share with other families- so it does not last a month.? Mrs
Ndapana, a Maasai woman who is currently caring for 10 children, most of
whom are orphans she has taken in, said she is very grateful for the food,
but that it is not enough for such a large family. However the NIA and
Concern are already finding their caseload larger than expected and the
funding is not there to increase the quantity of food given to people like
Mrs Ndapana and her family.

Louise Finan, Concern?s regional communications officer, explained that
?Funding is way down, Concern rely about 50% on general donations from the
public and the other 50% comes from government donations.? The government
donations have been slashed; Concern lost 23 million Euros in funding this
year due to the heavily criticised Irish government?s repeated foreign aid
budget cuts. But the Irish government are not the only ones withdrawing aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which is principally funded by governments of
UN member states, have only raised around a third of its projected total
US$6.7 billion aid budget. Marcus Prior, WFP spokesman in Nairobi, said that
across the developing world the agency has had to ?reduce rations to hungry
people, or in some instances entire programmes.? A recent report by the UN
claimed that over 1 billion people are hungry in the world, of that 1
billion the WFP can only reach 1 in 10 people, Mr. Prior said, adding that
?it is vital that we continue to receive support from those nations that
have the resources to make a difference.?

In Kajaido district, the continuation of aid is indeed vital. Malnutrition
levels are on the rise, Dr Timothy Sialala who works at a local clinic said
?last week we admitted 27 children for supplementary feeding, 11 children
for therapeutic.? Joseph Kobia, Concern?s nutrition officer, explained that
therapeutic feeding is given to those children who are suffering from severe
malnutrition which according to Mr. Kobia means ?they are facing imminent
death.? Besides the 38 children admitted to the clinic in one week another
100 sick children had to be sent away without treatment because funding is
so limited only the most malnourished children can be treated.

Whilst local charities in Kenya continue to worry about the ramifications of
the West tightening their belt, the World Food Programme remains positive
that the funds will keep coming. ?Our donors have been generous in the past
when confronted with needs such as the ones we face now in Kenya, and we are
optimistic they will be so again.?

For now all the Kajiado maasai can do, as the first spots of rain begin to
fall, is look to the heavens and hope that both rain and aid will continue
to come.

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