, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 19 – Members of Parliament have voted overwhelmingly to compel the government to declare the ongoing drought a disaster even as the State maintained that the country had enough food to feed those facing starvation.
The MPs passed a Motion to petition the Executive to undertake more mitigation efforts despite objections by Special Programs Minister Esther Murugi. She said the government would not declare it a disaster yet, but would intensify efforts to mop up available maize and distribute it.
Ms Murugi told Parliament that the government had established that there was enough maize in the Rift Valley which was sufficient to alleviate the looming famine.
"We have a lot of maize in the North Rift and the South Rift and all we want is to work out the logistics to ensure everybody gets food on their table," said Ms Murugi.
"We want the military forces to leave the barracks and come and help us ensure that the food reaches the needy areas."
The Minister said the government in conjunction with the World Food Program had been feeding 2.6 million Kenyans but this number was likely to rise to five million people in the current drought. It is estimated that a total of 27 million livestock are also at risk.
The Motion was moved by Wajir West MP Adan Keynan who regretted that residents of Northern Kenya and their livestock were staring at death and needed immediate rescue.
"The drought is real. People are dying," he said.
Nominated MP Sheikh Muhammad Dor urged the State to immediately institute measures to save those in danger.
"The government should stop denial and admit Kenyans are suffering," said Sheikh Dor.
All those who spoke blamed the government for failing to prepare adequately for the disaster despite numerous warnings issued in the past. Last year the Prime Minister Raila Odinga outlined measures how the State would handle the crisis but the plans have not been fully implemented.
"It is unfortunate that despite that the government knew that the drought was coming it never prepared for it," complained Mosop MP David Koech.
Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu said: "We seem to know what to do but we don\’t know when to do it."
Forestry Minister Noah Wekesa caused uproar in the House when he stood to criticise the government for failing to take action. MPs complained that it was wrong for him to accuse the same government he serves.
""We have maize in Moi\’s Bridge but we have not transported this to Lodwar where is it needed. We produce the maize but how can we expect the same to go to Lodwar? It must be transported, "posed the Minister.
The Minister for the Development of Northern Kenya Mohammed Elmi urged legislators to help in forestalling any conflicts associated with the competition for water and pasture.
"Let us bring our act together we ask the pastoralists to keep peace and allow livestock movement peacefully to where there is pasture," he said.
He said the government was in the process of setting up a National Drought Management Authority.
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