Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kenya says there is no need for mediation with Tanzania being a member of the EAC

The common market was signed on November, 20 2009 by the five EAC Heads of State, and came into force on July 1, 2010 where the five east African countries freed up the movement of people, products and capital across borders, furthering East Africa’s dream of broad political unification.

The transformation and growth of the East African Community, aims to become a monetary union by 2012 and have a common currency by 2015, with political federation to come soon after.

The East African Community was founded in 1967 by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda but collapsed a decade later over political infighting between member states.

The community has expressed interest in a common currency, as well as a single tourist visa. The member states are also collaborating on building a regional railway line that would run from the Indian Ocean to Burundi, bordering Lake Tanganyika.

The EAC integration process involves four stages - the Customs Union, Common Market, Monetary Union, and finally a Political Federation. The integration process is currently at common market stage and expected to move to monetary union (MU).

The EAC countries are Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda with the new Republic of South Sudan expressing its wish to become a member.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Why we must re-think about food security?

Agriculture, being practiced in all parts of the country, is regarded as the backbone of Kenya in terms of economic growth.

People depend on agriculture not just for raw materials but also for their food supply. Food is necessary to satisfy hunger and to provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

With an expanding world population, the agricultural sector is under tremendous stress to increase its output.

Each year governments allocate funding to the sector for sustainable development. However, they have struggled to bring about tangible changes in the sector.

Climate change, rapid population growth and urbanization present the most daunting challenge to meeting the goal of eradicating extreme hunger and poverty in Sub Saharan Africa.

With two years left to 2015- deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)- a framework  established by the United Nations in 2000 to guide development in the areas of poverty, education, hunger, and disease.

As Kenya, we are yet to achieve MDG one of alleviating people dying of hunger because there is insufficient supply of food, and people lack enough food to eat. However, according to “The Millennium Development Goals 2011” report, notes that Kenya is still with the most undernourished people despite efforts to uplift its people from poverty with a 25- 35 per cent noting that, “Based on current trends, sub-Saharan Africa will be unable to meet the hunger-reduction target by 2015.”

The image of Kenya children in the arid and semi arid regions starving and dying from hunger and malnutrition is certainly emotive and swiftly moves the nation and international community to compassionate action.

Given the excruciating spectacle of death and hunger, it is easy to argue that low input, low productivity rain-fed small farm agricultural production systems are the culprit and must be replaced with production systems that utilize fertilizers, high yielding hybrid seeds, pesticides and irrigation.

Early 2010, during the opening of a three day International Conference on Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, the Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross Society Abbas Gullet, said that a great percentage of Kenya was in the arid and semi arid and its economy was vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

  “...droughts and floods have far reaching impacts on our economy. The country is just going through one of the worst droughts that have impacted negatively on our livestock systems. Food security, water resources, energy among other fabrics of our socio-economic support systems,” Abbas disclosed.

Abbas had appealed to all the key players to proactively work together in sharing knowledge learned from community based programmes  and other key disaster risk reduction players to address risk challenges at community levels in Kenya.

Similarly, long queues of farmers have frequently been witnessed at various National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) stores across the Western Province and the North Rift for the government subsidized fertilizer, farmers in Kakamega every planting season.

Consequently, the country's major seed producing company Kenya Seed has occasionally announced major shortage of maize seeds in the middle of the planting season leaving many farmers stranded not knowing what to do or where else they can could obtain good certified seeds to plant as fear of getting late in planting griped them.

Have we learnt?

African agriculture is sensitive to climate change – Kenya not left out. Many farmers in Africa will experience net revenue losses from warming according to ‘Climate Change and African Agriculture Policy Note no. 18 of August 2006 done by the Center for Environmental Economics and policy in Africa (CEEPA). It notes that, irrigation is an effective adaptation against loss of rainfall and higher temperatures provided there is sufficient water available.

Scientists note that Africa’s vulnerability depends on exposure of people and assets and capacity and means to respond.

All these justify that, rural populations heavily depend on rain fed agriculture are most affected and the causes of food insecurity are a combination of depending rural poverty, agricultural productivity, inadequate investment in rural infrastructure, population pressure in fragile areas and extreme weather events.

Despite the potential of rainwater harvesting to empower local communities and enhance their development capacities, there are several hindrances. These include: lack of awareness, lack of institutional framework in terms of non-existent or poor policies at national and local levels, information gaps, low investment in research and development and lack of private sector participation indicates the World Bank Group Strategic Framework on Climate Change and Development – SFCCD  “Making Development Climate resilient: for Sub-Saharan Africa” report.

The greatest challenge in Kenya is the liberation of millions of impoverished and disenfranchised people in the rural communities.

Development of the rural sector must be an integral part of economic development few countries have experienced sustained economic development without growth of the rural sector. Similarly, all countries that have experienced significant growth have also achieved a more rapidly growing economy an example is Rwanda and Malawi.

Development of the rural communities is therefore, not just an end in itself but has a direct and beneficial effect on overall economic development of the nation.

A robust rural economy, income growth and employment are crucial for achieving the Vision  2030. Rural populations will continue to grow and there will continue to be weak absorption of labour by other economic sectors. Thus in the short-term and the long-term there will be a need for productive engagement in rural activities.

Small land holders in the agricultural sector must be sensitized away from subsistence farming and guided towards more rewarding commercial farming.

Improving productivity and maximising incomes of farmers.

This can be achieved through a program for subsistence farmers that not only improve productivity, but also reduce weather dependency and provide simple financing instruments to encourage investment in new technologies and equipment, increased land ownership, and easier access to local markets. Lifting subsistence farmers out of their precarious position would be equivalent to halving the number of hungry people,” says Franz Fischler, a former European Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries.

He adds, 
“To tackle global food security successfully, we must change the way we treat rural development, which requires adopting a much more bottom-up approach.”

Such a strategy could accelerate agricultural growth and alleviate poverty. Nevertheless, attention to food security will continue to be important for nutritional purposes. There, however, remains a need to focus on specialisation and developing local markets.

This is a reason why the ministry of finance, considers access to water and sustainable ways of harvesting rainwater for developing the Arid and Semi Arid lands to reduce reliance on water trucking, termed as expensive and unsustainable; need for irrigated food production as opposed to the current rain-fed agriculture to ensure food security.

The ministry also under the Economic Stimulus Program further aims at transforming the agriculture sector by supporting small farmer through agribusiness fund to ensure that farmers get essential financial assistance for tools, seeds, fertilizers, and other production chain to boost agricultural production and sustain rural livelihoods.

Earlier, less had been done to educate the nation on how to harness the benefits of planting and conserving forest. According to the United Nation Environmental Programme, Division of Environment policy, in many countries, rainwater harvesting is still marginal and often goes unacknowledged as a means to improve the economic, social and environmental livelihoods of local communities (urban and rural).

Further, the untapped resource of rainwater is a valuable component of integrated water resources management that contributes to the global efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development.

The pace of any paradigm shift will almost certainly depend on the perception of government’s response to addressing risk factors associated with market dependency to meet basic needs and generate income. Markets, for example, will be expected to function optimally and to the benefit of the poor.

Risks can be mitigated by improving security in land tenure and engaging in contingency planning for natural hazards such as drought and winter flooding in the cape flatland. Access roads must be improved and market access fees eliminated to facilitate products being brought to market. This will require greater investment in infrastructure and facilitation of efficient channels of distribution. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Unsafe abortion is one of the continent’s biggest threats to women’s health

Expectant mothers still die from four major causes: severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion.

Early November 2010, a student of Moi Girls Kamusinga , Bungoma County died after an abortion attempt. The principal of the school Mrs. Josephine Wanyama said that the student was in class when she screamed due to excruciating labour pains but later died when she was being rushed to hospital for medical attention.

The doctor’s report confirmed that the student, who had been under his grandma's care, had attempted to flush out the 5 month foetus after the doctors found its remnants after operating on the student.

This is one case of the number of teenagers who are dying in an attempt to procure an abortion.

 However, how many girls do we have that are lured into this trend of purchasing a Sh400 ‘Postinor-2 tablets’ dose commonly referred to as P2 (An oral emergency contraceptive which can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex) easily accessed in pharmacy?

Another sad story by Kwamboka Oyaro, began as:

"Why isn’t my baby growing?" she frantically sought an explanation. "Nobody knows why that happens but you need to be cleaned immediately," the doctor said with finality and turned to answer a call on his mobile phone. The woman looked at him in horror as he joked and laughed with the caller.

Yet, at private hospital in the same county, money changed hands as a woman was in labour. Her husband did not want another child and instructed the health workers to tie her fallopian tubes (tubal ligation, a permanent family planning method) as she underwent a C-section. She was never given a chance to discuss this issue and decide for herself that she wanted her reproductive chapter closed.

What about, men who find themselves alone with babies whose mothers died on the labour table. They have no clue of what to do with the children.

These scenarios are common when it comes to reproductive and maternal health, scenarios of failed policies and of ignorance, of lack of political commitment, inefficiency and unprofessional  Stories that simply reveal the conspiracy to deprive women of access to maternal health care and facilities. It is just a conspiracy of death.

Ten years ago, the Government committed itself to ensure that Millennium Development Goalnumber five was realised by 2015. The goal states: Achieving good maternal health requires quality reproductive health services and well-timed interventions to ensure a woman’s safe passage to motherhood.

 “Unsafe abortion is one of the continent’s biggest threats to women’s health. While abortion is safe in countries where it is legal and provided by trained medical professionals, clandestine abortion in most of Africa leads to death and serious injury,” says President of GuttmacherInstitute, Sharon Camp.

Camp notes that, more than 26,000 African women die as a result of unsafe abortion annually as another 1.7 million are hospitalised, and many others suffer serious health complications, but do not seek treatment.

 According to a report released  2010 September,trends in maternal mortality by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)and the World Bank showed that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.

However the report states that, progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75pc between 1990 and 2015.

One reason is that as a result of improved diet and better standards of living, girls now get their first menstruation quite early. Today, girls aged between nine and 13 are becoming pregnant.
Every day, about 1,000 women died due to these complications in 2008. Out of the 1,000, 570 lived in sub-Saharan Africa, 300 in South Asia and five in high-income countries.

The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is about 36 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country.

"To achieve our global goal of improving maternal health and to save women's lives we need to do more to reach those who are most at risk," says Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

"That means reaching women in rural areas and poorer households, women from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups..."

Consequently, more needs to be done to reduce this number of deaths. This is a time the government should recognize the role of the health care providers more than ever before especially after they were spread across the country by the twin Health Ministries.

Healthcare providers are the key to any successful maternal health programme but rarely have their views been sought in a structured and dedicated way so as to provide a useful body of evidence about their perspectives on the problems and their solutions.

Midwives, nurses and doctors around the world have a direct voice about the barriers they face in delivering, lifesaving maternal healthcare a strong focus on identifying solutions to longstanding barriers in the delivery of maternal care.

This is because, they understand the way that socio-economic inequality plays out in different settings is important for determining the most effective policy and programme responses to access to health care.

Kenya, like other countries in the world seems to be headed towards an integrated health information system (Kenya Draft Bill and Policy Document 2009). This calls for the development and enhancement of systems and records management for effective collaboration of conventional and traditional medicine sectors.

Of importance is to understand the health indicators in the health information and record management systems which include morbidity indicators, child health indicators, maternal health indictors, supplies indicators and community health care indicators (Maternal mortality is described as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy or delivery from any cause related to or worsened by the pregnancy or its management).

The Provincial Director, Medical Services in Western Province, Dr. Godrick Onyango, noted that according to the national health indices, 32 per cent of women deliver in hospitals.

To effectively deal with this, the government was urged to support nurses. “The community needs to support nurses for better health”.

However, with these aspects, is it time we thought of new approaches to the whole issue of health to reduce the number of maternal deaths?

 Research indicates that if women had access to basic maternal health services, 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be prevented. Vitamin A supplementation, which is readily available per child, could save over a quarter of a million young lives annually by reducing the risk and severity of diarrhea and infections.

Additionally, investment in the health of mothers and children reaps widespread development returns that can benefit communities for generations to come.

The survival and health of mothers is essential to the well-being of the entire family - children who lose their mothers are five times more likely to die in infancy that those who do not.
Healthy children, meanwhile, are more likely to benefit from educational opportunities and grow into productive adults.

Law makers need to play a vital role in making maternal survival a national priority and supporting enactment of supportive legislation that addresses root causes of maternal death and disability from pregnancy.

MDG five can be achieved but only if there is political will and financial investment. The government should increase financial allocations for maternal health programmes to ensure all women in Kenya, regardless of their social status, have access to the quality maternal health services.

First published by