, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28 – Kenya announced on Thursday that it would deploy the military to the northern part of the country to distribute relief food to hundreds of thousands of people facing starvation.
A Cabinet meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki at State House Nairobi, authorised the military deployment which is seen as a way of curbing theft of relief food.
“The Cabinet directed that the food availed for the needy should be distributed more efficiently and reach all affected parts of the country,” a statement from the President’s office said.
“The National Youth Service and military will be deployed to augment the ongoing distribution efforts.”
In the meantime, the Cabinet ordered further measures to complement the Sh10 billion earlier allocated towards the purchase of food for the needy.
Previously, food aid distribution was spearheaded by local provincial administrators who were often accused of inefficiency and corruption, with some even caught selling relief food.
The Cabinet also discussed the possibility of hosting an international conference in the capital, Nairobi, to seek for more lasting solutions of ending the humanitarian crisis, threatening the lives of millions of people.
The statement from the President’s office did not however provide details of the conference and when it will be held.
“Dates of the meeting will be agreed upon with regional and international partners,” the statement said.
The conference will seek to find long term solutions and come up with emergency food requirements to feed the more than 14 million people faced with acute starvation in the horn of Africa.
“The conference will also discuss the support for the opening of feeding camps inside Somalia in order to stop the influx of refugees to neighbouring countries especially Kenya,” the Cabinet brief said.
It will also discuss the medium and long term measures needed to mitigate the negative effects of climate change in the region and address the social, health and security matters that have compounded the food crises.
More than 11 million people face starvation in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia in what international humanitarian organisations have described as the worst crisis in more than 60 years.
The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) said it had commenced airlifting food aid to Mogadishu for distribution to affected parts within the war torn country which is largely controlled by Al Shabaab militants loyal to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Locally, various corporate organisations have commenced initiatives of alleviating famine in Northern Kenya through partnerships.
On Wednesday, Safaricom, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Media Owners Association announced that they would pull resources together to assist people affected by famine.
Mobile phone operator Airtel too announced on Thursday that it had joined the “Kenyans4Kenya’ initiative to help feed hunger-stricken villages in Northern Kenya which is among regions worst hit in the Horn of Africa.
The initiative of the organisations is seeking to raise some Sh500 million to provide food for 3.5 million famine stricken residents in Turkana, Marsabit and other areas in that region.
Airtel’s Managing Director Rene Meza lauded the initiative spearheaded by Kenya Red Cross saying such unity of purpose would help bring relief to the affected communities.
Mr Meza said Airtel has opened a contribution line on the Airtel Money platform through which its customers can send their donations free of charge.
“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 red cross as nickname, enter the amount and then PIN,” he explained.