29 September 2009

Oxfam Delivers the Doom

More bad news comes out concerning East Africa from Oxfam.  The drought that has ravaged much of Northern Kenya, Southern Sudan and Somalia for what they claim to be five years continues.  There seems to be little hope as these areas depend upon rain for crops and there has not been nearly enough. 

The rains that the article claims to be coming next month are here, at least in Western Kenya.  It mentions concerns with flooding.  From what I have read and been told, the last time El Nino made an appearance flooding ensued.  Being that we are situated in a mountainous region, the stakes are much higher for basin areas.  With the mudslide that ripped through the escarpment just a few miles to our East in 2007, the excessive rain could be a problem.  In addition, with little sanitation water-borne illness will spread at a rapid rate.  A cholera outbreak is a possibility.  Plus water means mosquitoes.  So the fun of itching and all the disease that they carry will become a nightly event.

While the article mentions the issues that will come out of the lack/deluge of rain, it does nothing to highlight the fact that the weather problems highlight existing issues.  An overly agrarian will suffer when it is too dry or too wet.  It is confounded when infrastructure is next to non-existent and the care for the plants is entirely determined on the weather.  So farmers starve and cows die because it does not rain.  The lack of rain is problematic, but somehow Vegas can flourish when surrounded by sand and no water.

Vegas is hard to compare to Wajir, but it highlights the way that proper infrastructure can overcome natures shortcomings.  Kenya is a long way from coming close to providing the necessary infrastructure.  Although I know little on the subject, I will posit that the pressure by and help from groups like Oxfam can be harmful.  When the drought comes, money is raised and food is distributed.  When the normal rain patterns return the are is forgotten.  The pressure that existed to provide food is removed and people are left alone.  This then leaves the causes for the initial need for aid neglected.

To me, it is another example of how a strong and cohesive central government can be immensely beneficial.  It took legislation and government spending to get the American infrastructure to its current point.  Here, there is little pressure to do so.  Roads are improved when needed because of trade.  Growth is not seen as an achievement linked to the improvement of sewage, water, power and roads in Kenya.  By limiting resources spent on these vital components, the society of sustenance farming remains.

Corruption prevails and the status quo remains as the elite work to retain their positions within their stratosphere.  Throwing a few projects into the are of your constituents is not even necessary.  MP’s will just give away money and promises.  A fatter pocket leads to temporary amnesia and the re-election campaign succeeds with ease.  The MP gets to return to Nairobi where he gets his comfortable salary and is exempt from paying taxes.  When it comes time to make any sort of discussion in regards to the government, he shuffles about and makes friends within his party and the opposition. 

So what do they do?  They pass bills to change the marriage laws when they have promised a new constitution for five years, have yet to implement any of the reforms agreed upon in the coalition government, and people starve in the North.