Kenyans for Kenya

By Peter Orengo and Rawlings Otieno

The response by Kenyans was overwhelming and humbling - hitting Sh19 million, through M-Pesa contributions alone on the second day.

On Wednesday when it was launched, contributions stood at Sh5.5 million by close of the day. Another Sh14.5 million was raised Thursday. The special account for the famine initiative dubbed, Kenyans for Kenya, opened by Kenya Commercial Bank was also about to hit the Sh1 million-mark by last evening.
Suffering:Emaciated, hungry and low on hope a Turkana woman lies next to a sufuria with raw beef of a dead cow, as her helpless son blankly stares at horizon. [PHOTO: LUCAS NGASIKE/STANDARD]

"We are delighted at the overwhelming response to our appeal from ordinary Kenyans and corporations,’’ said Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore.

The target to mitigate the raging famine, which has put 3.5 million lives at serious risk, is Sh500 million. The contributions were still coming last night with corporations either joining in or setting up parallel famine relief initiatives.

The US Government joined local and international organisations in responding to the crisis, said to be the worst in 60 years. The US announced Sh11 billion- donation to assist refugees, Internally Displaced Persons, and drought-affected populations.

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On Monday the European Union announced it had released Sh3.6 billion on top of the Sh9billion the commission had given to the region this year.

United Nations, through its Central Emergency Rapid Response Fund, also announced the release of Sh1.25 billion specifically to assist communities in arid areas to mitigate the effects of drought.

The World Bank gave an overall Sh45 billion to assist drought victims in the Horn of Africa, with an additional Sh1 billion for immediate assistance to those worst hit. But the bulk of the money, it said, would be put in various projects focusing on short-term recovery and long-term drought response.

So far, the Kenya Government says it has released Sh8 billion through the ministries of Water, Agriculture and Special Programmes, but it requires an additional Sh2 billion to fulfill its mandate.

The heroes of the day were the ordinary Kenyans, regardless of ethnic group or political affiliation, whose contributions by phone, which accepts donations as low as Sh10 per person, who pushed the overall figure so about Sh20 million.

Money transfer

Also joining in Kenya for Kenyans initiative was Airtel and Telkom Orange, with opening of contribution lines on their mobile money transfer platforms. Its customers can also send in donations free of charge.

Airtel Managing Director Rene Meza lauded the initiative spearheaded by Kenya Red Cross Society in association with Media Owners Association, Safaricom and KCB, saying such unity of purpose would bring relief to the affected communities.

The mobile provider called its own initiative Shibisha na Bob Joint Campaign. "We are accepting contributions from as low as Sh10. Customers can donate by accessing their Airtel Money menu, select the send money option, then enter the word redcross as nickname, enter the amount and then PIN," explained Mr Meza.

The special KCB account, in which deposits can be made at any of the bank’s 169 branches, is No 1133 33 33 38.

On Internet social sites and in public forum Kenyans expressed outrage at the way the famine had been mismanaged.

Last evening, the Cabinet approved the use of military and National Youth Service personnel to transport food and co-ordinate relief operations in the hard-hit areas, especially Turkana.

On Thursday, The Standard reported the death of the 80-year-old Turkana woman whose image had symbolised the ravage of the drought in May.

Over 6,000 Kenyans at home and abroad engaged in discussions in social media, Twitter and Facebook on how to deal with the crisis. They encouraged other Kenyans to contribute to the Kenyans for Kenya Initiative.

The Safaricom M-Pesa account for the initiative is 111111.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stressed Washington cannot address the crisis in the Horn of Africa alone, asking the international community to take additional steps to tackle both immediate assistance needs and strengthen capacity in the region to respond crises.

Horn of Africa

"The US is deeply concerned by the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa. That is why today the United States Government is providing an additional Sh2.5 billion in aid to the people of Somalia and for Somali refugees in Kenya," said Clinton in a statement.

EU Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, said: "We must all do more to help not just those families who, through no fault of their own, have been forced to become refugees but also those victims in Somalia."

According to the UN’s revised budget for Kenya to respond effectively to the current hunger crisis, it needed about Sh20 billion.

But Deputy House speaker Maalim Mohamed for the first time admitted the crisis was being used as a cash cow for the Government and NGOs.

"The Government has not risen to the occasion to help its people. What they have done is send appeals then wait for the international communities to do everything," Maalim said during a press conference a consortium of NGOs called.

He claimed every time there is drought most of the donations that flow in are diverted elsewhere through corrupt means.

"Kenya has perennially failed to tackle the problem of drought deliberately. Right now, there are those who are waiting to cash-in. The Metrological Department gave an early warning in January, why wasn’t anything done?" asked Maalim.

The Government Spokesperson, Alfred Mutua, who spoke later at his weekly briefing, said the Government had released Sh10 billion through various ministries.

He warned the number of hunger-stricken people was increasing, and is expected to reach about four million in the next few months.

He said that the Government would work with the Red Cross, World Food Programme, Unicef, and others to open feeding centres in Somalia, where security is assured by the Somali Transitional Government and African Peace Keeping Force.

He called on the international community to help the Somali drought victims, noting that building more camps would not solve the problem. "Waiting for starving people to trek for kilometres into Kenya for food and water is not right. They can receive help earlier and more lives could be saved," added Mutua.

Mutua admitted that there is a flow of over 2,000 refugees per week, which he said was not manageable since most of them were sickly.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) deplored the death of women and children in Turkana, Samburu, Malindi and other areas. Cotu called on leaders to mobilise resources, including food and medical services for the hunger stricken counties. "Poverty anywhere constitutes danger everywhere. As a country we are courting danger if we fail to address these issues. We should declare the current drought and famine a national disaster," Cotu Secretary General Cotu, Francis Atwoli, said.


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