Monday, January 02, 2006

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink

I read this op/ed column in the Nation yesterday (see post below) about how
Kenya is underdeveloped because Kenyans lack the inspiration to build the
infrastructure to solve their water problems. This was in light of the
current dry season that creates famine for millions of Kenyans every year.
Kibaki is now appealing for national and international relief in the
billions of shillings to rescue people suffering from famine, especially in
the northeast.

Before I would have written off the column as narrow-minded Republican
vitriol complaining that Kenyans are just lazy and need to get off their
asses, but in the context of my experience in the village, despite some of
the language choice (�we must enslave nature�), I really see where the
columnist is coming from. I don�t know why leaders of this country have
known for their entire lives that every year in December and January there
is a drought and famine because it stops raining, and yet no one has
succeeded in developing water infrastructure to prevent people from
starving. And then Kibaki asks foreign countries to send food and money, as
if this were an unavoidable crisis that no one saw coming, instead of a
seasonal occurrence that could be addressed with some planning and
organization. The corruption and greed here is infuriating, but even more
than that it makes me sad. A reader wrote into the Nation (one of the papers
here) that it�s a shame that it takes photos of starving children for
leaders to take action. It�s more of a shame that the actions that leaders
take are unsustainable, temporary solutions. Next year the same communities
will once again face drought and famine, and everyone knows it. But the
people who can do something lasting about it won�t. Instead of planning a
public water infrastructure to serve the country for generations, at the end
of next December they�ll once again appeal for aid and pat themselves on the
back for being �so responsive� to the crisis at hand. And year after year
80% of the population � those who live in rural areas � will continue to
have to fetch water miles from their home, wonder if it�s clean, hope the
rains keep coming, and dread the dry season. In the mean time their leaders
are too busy looking for ways to funnel money into their own pockets to
think about how to lay pipes and irrigation systems so their constituents
have access to a basic human right � clean water and food.


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