By Ogova Ondego
Published March 5, 2017
Eighteen years after President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi of Kenya launched an ambitious plan to eliminate poverty in the East African former British colony in 1999, the National Poverty Eradication Strategy begs answers as the country seeks assistance from the international community to save three million food-insecure people from starvation.
Stephen O’Brien, United Nations’ Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, is appealing for support for some 2.7 million people in parts of Kenya who urgently need food and water resulting from severe drought.
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, has declared the drought a national disaster and called for international support.
Was the National Poverty Eradication Strategy as impractical as critics said it was? It is two years after it was to have been fully implemented. And things do not seem to be getting any better. Only worse.
Most of those who criticised the plan missed out on one crucial point; Globalisation! One cannot hope to alleviate poverty without dealing with the forces of Globalisation.
Globalisation is the spirit which espouses free market economies. According to experts, Globalisation is the fourth stage in the West in its continued subjugation of Africa. Began over 500 years ago, the first stage was the enslavement of Africans. Industrial revolution ushered in the second stage; colonialism. Since machinery had rendered slave labour non-viable, the West decided to enslave Africans on their own continent where they would be made to grow cash crops to be used in the West.
The third phase of subjugation was that of neo-colonialism. Africans were given political independence but denied the ability to determine their own destinies through unfavourable trade and investment policies. Debt arrangements, which favour the West, were compounded by the West’s predisposition to use Africans as pawns whenever the need arose. This was the case during the Cold War which pitted the West against the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) commonly known as the Soviet Union. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the West thought of other ways in which to continue their stranglehold on Africa. Thus Globalisation sprung up.
Like the earlier three stages, this one also exists to benefit the West. Based on the Darwinian philosophy of survival for the fittest, it is driven by the motive for financial profit and greed. It demands that developing countries open up their markets so that the Developed World dumps its merchandise on them. This is badly affecting the former as people abandon any attempts at industrialisation as they can get imported goods at less than what it would cost to manufacture and sell their own.
The above are the forces that should be addressed by anyone who attempts to alleviate poverty in Kenya.
The 16-year National Poverty Eradication Plan unveiled by President Daniel arap Moi at the former Kenya Telecommunications Technology College in Mbagathi that has since been transformed into Multimedia University of Kenya had sought to reduce the number of the poor by 20% in 2004 and a further 30% six years later. It also aimed at providing universal primary health care and primary education by 2010 and 2015, respectively.
Another point worth tackling is the anticipated provision of safe drinking water to everyone by the year 2010. That was seven years ago.
Health and education were the sectors which had been most affected by Globalisation’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) which sent the Kenyan poor to an early grave.
By 1999, about 12.6 million Kenyans were said to be living below poverty line and could not afford food, education and health care.
Perhaps it was out of this realisation that the then sitting President who was popularly known as Nyayo (governing according to the examples set by Kenya’s founding President, Jomo Kenyatta) said the very poor would be exempted from cost-sharing. Although he said exemption guidelines would be issued later, it was unclear how anyone in Kenya would ever admit to being able to cost-share and therefore pay for services while others received them free.
Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been dropping steadily. In 1994 it stood at 3.7%. This dropped to 2.3 in 1997 and to 1.6% in 1998. The per capita income dropped from US$400 in 1963 to $300 in 1999. These factors need to be addressed before attempting to eradicate poverty.
While the government talked about eradicating poverty, experts predicted a worse health situation not only in Africa, but also in Kenya. One in every three Africans (one in every two in Kenya) lived below the poverty line in 1999. The AIDS scourge and rapid population increase exacerbated matters. It was unclear why the government had not addressed these two factors in its anti-poverty strategy.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) have frustrated the World Health Organisation’s ‘Health for All’ strategy all over the world. The Bretton Woods twins insisted that developing world adopt SAPs in return for aid. But SAPs demand that governments not subsidize health services and that consumers pay for health care. User services makes health care less available to the poor who now die from otherwise preventable diseases.
In countries like Nicaragua whose leaders rejected SAPs, Western governments used military force.
Although an extremely poor nation, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government had conducted massive immunisation and health education campaigns which had changed the concept of health for a few to health for all. Despite this progress, the United States government supported terrorists who bombed schools and health institutions to topple the government of Nicaragua as it was a hurdle in the West’s push for globalization.
Globalisation, by emphasizing cash crops so that indebted nations may collect money with which to repay their loans, has forced Africa to lose the war to feeding its people. Africa’s food production has reduced by about 30% and the continent is importing two thirds of its food while one third of its inhabitants depends on food aid. How exactly is Kenya going to deal with food production?
An international conference in Nairobi in 1998 heard that the number of people without water and sanitation in Africa would grow from 70 million in 1998 to 400 million in the next two decades. Unless something is done to remedy the situation, two thirds of humanity will suffer from an acute shortage of water by 2025. By this time, Kenya may not have enough water for its domestic, let alone commercial, use.
According to the World Bank, Kenya had 590 cubic metres per capita of water per year in 1990 but it is projected that by 2025 it will only have 190 cubic metres with a population of 47 million.
Water goes hand in hand with food production and health. Without water, there can be no food and without both there can be no healthy people.