Ms Taabu Karisa quenches her malnourished child’s thirst with the last drop of water in a bottle as she patiently waits the end of speeches by politicians so that relief food can be distributed.
She looks deeply lost in reverie and obviously not keen on the speeches made by leaders led by CORD leader Raila Odinga. Her worry is what her three siblings will have for super.
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Karisa is among hundreds of hunger-stricken residents seated on the parch surface under a radiating sun at Mutsengo Primary School in the remote part of Kaloleni, Kilifi County.
They arrived here as early as 8am to register their names to benefit from the supply after word went round that Governor Amason Kingi would distribute food.
At 4pm, tired and weaker, Karisa becomes the first person to receive two kilos of maize and a kilo of beans. She staggers her way home, six kilometres away.
She counts herself lucky after receiving the food. She however feels dejected that she was forced to sit for eight hours to literally cheer and clap for political leaders.
“Nasikia sina nguvu, dzandhariza hangu madzacha. Sinahaja na siasa zao (I feel weak, I have been waiting since morning and I am not interested with their politics),” says Karisa.
Next to her is Kadzo Kahindi, a 68-year-old granny soothing her one and half year old crying grandchild. Two other malnourished boys seated by her side lay their heads on her lap, dozing.
Unlike Karisa, Kadzo is only presented with a kilo of maize and a 20-litre jerrican of fresh water.
Questions abound the distribution of the relief food as Coast Jubilee and CORD leaders have largely turned relief food supply as a bait to lure starving crowds at campaign rallies. Last week, Deputy President William Ruto also led Jubilee leaders to distribute food aid at Mavirivirini, Mwavumbo Location. The story was the same: hunger-stricken locals had to sit for hours to listen to political mumbo jumbo before receiving aid.
Religious leaders now demand a stop on politicisation of relief food distribution. Bishop Julius Kalu of the Anglican Church has said it is immoral for politicians to use food aid as bait and manipulate the suffering locals because of their situation.
“The food aid is donated by well-wishers or from the government and not from the pockets of politicians. The distribution should not be mixed with politics. It is a sad,” said Mr Kalu.
He said the law makers should come up with strategies to address the perennial hunger problem in Kilifi County, which is the most affected part at the Coast.
“Why are people in Ganze not supplied with water yet the biggest pipe transporting water from Baricho to Mombasa passes through the area,” wondered Kalu.
Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya National Organising Secretary Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa said the politicians were “belittling locals” already suffering from hunger.
Clap and cheer
“It is an issue that must be condemned. People lining up for food aid are suffering. Why should politicians make them suffer even more by forcing them to sit the whole day before giving them food?” posed Khalifa.
The cleric said it was rong for food aid to be politicised, adding that “forcing hungry people to clap and cheer politicians so that they can get aid goes against the teaching of the Quran.
It is estimated that 300,000 people face hunger in Kilifi County. In Kwale, authorities estimate that close to 250,000 people in four sub-counties require urgent aid.
In Kwale, Kinango Sub-county is the worst hit. Areas like Samburu, Chengoni and Vigurungani have over 160,000 people said to be starving.