From Volume 36, Issue 33 of EIR Online, Published Aug. 28, 2009
Africa News Digest

Lack of Infrastructure Leads to Drought, Famine in Kenya, Ethiopia

Aug. 23 (EIRNS)—Kenya and Ethiopia are in the throes of a drought, rising food prices, and famine, because of a lack of infrastructure.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared a national disaster because of the drought in January, and the emergency continues. The rains usually come in March or April and continue through June; this year they failed to arrive in some parts of the country. There are severe shortages of water and electric power—the latter being significantly dependent on hydroelectric generation. Both are being rationed in Nairobi.

The government announced Aug. 11 that the Army will help distribute foodstuffs, water, and medicine in the worst-hit areas, and that it is extending school feeding programs into the Summer vacation period. However, while the government has 500,000 metric tons of maize in its strategic reserves, the monthly requirement is 300,000 tons and the crisis is expected to last for two months or more.

Ethiopia is facing its second year of drought, rising food prices, and hunger. Twenty percent of the population (almost 14 million people) do not have enough to eat. In the worst areas, 62,000 children under five were treated for acute malnutrition in the first six months of 2009. This year, donors' contributions toward food have been less than half of what they were last year, and no infrastructure has been built that could provide food self-sufficiency when the rains fail.

Like several other African countries, Ethiopia is desperately hoping to acquire some of the needed infrastructure, by allowing in foreign investors to exploit large areas of farmland. Foreign investors are exploiting 1.7 million hectares this year, and plan to add another million hectares later. The investors, who are interested in feeding their own populations, are from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, China, and Korea. An official in the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture stated, "We have abundant land and labor, but we don't have finance and technology to feed our people."

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