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 CNS Story:

KENYA-CRITICIZE Aug-1-2011 (530 words) xxxi

Kenyan bishops challenge government to improve food security

By Francis Njuguna
Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop has heavily criticized the Kenyan government on what he described as its ineffectiveness in handling the hunger crisis developing in the East Africa nation.

Bishop Cornelius Arap Korir of Eldoret said he was disturbed to see that some people in Kenya are starving, while in other parts, such as his diocese, people are harvesting plenty of produce with some vegetables reportedly rotting in fields.

"This, for me, would seem to mean that the left hand of the government is not aware of what its right hand is doing, which is very unfortunate", the bishop said during a July 29 news conference the Catholic Church called to announce an appeal for food on behalf of Kenya's growing hunger crisis.

Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth of Kisumu, chairman of the Kenyan bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace joined Bishop Korir, the commission's vice chairman, at the conference and said the crisis was worsened by the rise in basic food prices, deteriorating drought conditions for farmers with livestock and the high rate of inflation.

"There has been reported deaths due to famine in various parts of the country," the bishops said in a prepared statement.

The current debate in the Kenyan parliament on food security and allocations for national intelligence should not only be guided by social structures, but also by the immediate need to protect and promote human life and dignity, the bishops said.

"We appeal to you Kenyans and the international relief agencies, humanitarian agencies to join hands in solidarity to ensure that these Kenyans do not continue suffering from starvation and hunger," they said.

In response to a question from journalists, Bishop Korir challenged the claim of a government spokesman who earlier denied that any Kenyan had died from starvation.

"On the contrary," Bishop Korir said, "the church has information to the effect that some people have died out of bodily complications, linked with starvation. Some of our sources in dioceses such as Lodwar within the country's semi-arid area in the north had it that some people had died out of starvation."

In May, Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Lodwar told Catholic News Service that he buried two parishioners of Todenyang Parish, near the Ethiopian border, who died of starvation.

"The government denial on the issue is quite unfounded as some reports from some of our dioceses have enough evidence to prove out this," Bishop Korir added. "In any case, how many people must die before the government moves in to do what it is supposed to do in caring for its people?"

Archbishop Okoth urged the government to correct imbalances in its food security policies.

"How come the government has not yet taken trouble to ensure that all good land for food production is being fully utilized and that issues such setting up of dams for irrigational purposes and water harvesting are put into practice?" he said.

"Food donations, though central in caring for the needy at a critical time like now, ... will not be panacea for the feeding of the nation," he explained. "We must, on the contrary, ensure that all matters pertaining to food policy and security are prioritized."


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