NAIROBI, KENYA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian aid workers were closely monitoring the situation in Kenya Saturday, February 11, amid reports that Christians are starving as famine spreads across the African nation and nearby countries, effecting millions of people.
Christians are especially suffering in north-east Kenya where form a minority and are “likely to be overlooked in aid distribution," claimed Barnabas Fund, a UK-based Christian aid and advocacy group.
"I am really finding it hard as I go preaching and visiting starving brothers and sisters in the Lord," a pastor said in a letter distributed by Barnabas Fund and obtained by BosNewsLife.
"There is [a] very great drought and famine in the country. As a result churches are greatly affected," the pastor added, apparently on condition of anonymity for apparent fear of Muslim militant attacks.
"There is hardly any water for home use, the harvesting failed terribly and still no sign of rain for planting. Can you through the Lord and brothers abroad be able to lend us hand at this demanding time?"
Christians are a majority in Kenya as a whole, "but they are a minority in much of the north-east of the country where the famine is centered," Barnabas Fund told BosNewsLife. "Muslims form the majority community in this area, and there are serious concerns that Christian communities may be excluded from general aid distribution," the group said.
"Experience in other countries shows that Christian minorities in Muslim areas tend to suffer disproportionately in any natural disaster." Adding to the difficulties are allegations that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's government has been criticized for extravagance at a time when most of Kenya’s 32 million people cannot afford a decent meal.
Since coming to power in 2002, his government spent 878 million Kenya Shillings ($12.3
million) on new vehicles -- enough to see 25,000 children through eight years of school, two watchdogs said in a recent report.
The local branch of Transparency International and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said nearly half the amount was used to buy 57 Mercedes Benz between January 2003 and September 2004. The rest was spent on a fleet of fuel-guzzling four-wheel drives, the report claimed.
"Conspicuous consumption makes a mockery of poverty alleviation efforts, besides creating resentment in society," the organizations stressed.
Kibaki already faced one of the worst crises at the helm of east Africa's after fresh claims of corruption involving senior ministers and cabinet allies surfaced last week.
The "Anglo Leasing" scandal hit the headlines after Kenya's former anti-graft chief John Githongo accused ministers of complicity in a multimillion-dollar scam involving contracts for a company that did not exist.
"…The line between wasteful expenditure and grand corruption is very thin and because of this senior government officials continue to be perceived as corrupt," said Transparency International and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
Meanwhile, at least 3.5 million people including 500,000 young children face hunger and possible starvation in 25 districts, added Barnabas Fund, quoting official estimates. Other figures already speak of 4 million people.
"The situation has been caused by poor rains over recent months. This has badly hit the farmers and the livestock on which many pastoralists rely for food and income," Barnabas Fund explained.
Even if the next rains come on time in March-April the harvest will not be ready until July-August, the organization explained. “Barnabas Fund has already sent an advance grant to a Christian organization working to assist in north-east Kenya to be used to provide maize for hungry Christians." Other Christian groups, including World Vision, are also in the area, BosNewsLife established.
Barnabas Fund said it is "closely monitoring" the situation in Kenya as well as the Horn of and Tanzania "where similar problems are starting to appear in some regions."
Local Christian organizations have appealed for food, vitamin supplements, clean water and medical packs such as re-hydration products, Barnabas Fund added.
"Aid through local [non-governmental] Christian groups generally proves to be the best way to provide cost-effective and accountable assistance to the neediest Christians in times of disaster," it said.
(Online donations are accepted via https://secure.barnabasfund.org, quoting project reference 25-608 or by calling 0800 587 4006 (in UK) and +44 1672 565031 from outside. A cheque by post is possible via link quoting the same reference number. With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Kenya).
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