Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kenya: Have we failed in Africa again?

I’ll be the first to admit that Africa is a little beyond my areas of academic training, but I’d still like to take a swing at this drought and famine that is engulfing not just Kenya, but several areas along the African coast including the recently declared famine in Somalia.

 I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the aid agencies and world governments who have stepped up to send billions of dollars in food aid to the region, but I feel like I’ve seen this movie so many times before. For one reason or another, civil war, drought, or genocide, it feels like parts of Africa has been in a perpetual state of hunger and disease forever.

 Some Western analysts view the continent as though the noble savage myth perpetrated by colonizing power two hundred years earlier has not been kicked into the casket. They believe that Africans are corrupt, stupid, lazy and barbaric and some have even gone as far as to write off the continent as a loss. Africans are not savages, they are prideful people with celebrated traditions and cultures, who don’t like famine and war anymore than the rest of the world. Today I’m calling on the world to take definitive steps to mitigate the constant food and water shortages in Africa.

There will always be spectacular circumstances that require international intervention, but we have to stop continually running to throw foreign aid at the problem and instead focus on practical, meaningful, solutions.

 In the current state of economic affairs, how long can the rest of the world support massive development programs that have yielded mediocre results. Furthermore, it takes time for relief agencies to hit the ground in Africa, valuable times passes, as people struggle to survive until  help can come. Africa is not exactly resource poor or ignorant, despite the suggestions of a few international aid workers.

 We have the technical knowledge and innovative capabilities to make use of Africa’s unique resources to build them some sustainable wells and irrigation systems that can provide them with valuable clean water until the help can arrive.

Although some of this work is occurring throughout Africa and other parts of the developing world, I’m very much afraid that various relief agencies will run in with big crates of food and water and then once the immediate crisis has passed, run back out, and the cycle will repeat itself again in six months. Just because we have sustained this cycle for decades does not make it right.

If people really give a crap about the impoverished and malnourished people of Africa, then they should dig a well or help plant gardens in African villages, something that can provide Africa more sustainable food and water sources, in the hopes that the global community won’t have to run in with food and water  play the Superman of the moment.

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