NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — A bishop in northwestern Kenya said people are so hungry they are eating wild fruit, roots of trees and dog meat.
“Food must reach here soonest to save the people from death,” said Bishop Dominic Kimengich of Lodwar, where most residents are animal farmers and ethnic Turkana. The area has been hit by drought.
In an email to Catholic News Service, the bishop said an estimated 63,000 households — about 460,000 people — are facing starvation. He estimated people would need about 22 million pounds of food over the next six months.
Kenyan government officials estimate 1.7 million people, most in the country’s northern region, need food relief.
Bishop Kimengich said his people also face constant insecurity and prolonged drought. The drought has led to the death of farmers’ animals, he said.
For instance, he said, in November, Turkana farmers were invaded by neighboring Pokot people over land ownership claims.
“From this tribal clash, some people lost their lives, while others, including some Catholic nuns running schools and hospitals, faced a temporary displacement,” the bishop told CNS.
In 2011, the Kenyan government announced the discovery of oil on the land, and last year it announced the discovery of water.
Although the government has promised food relief, the bishop said, “Not every promise of the government … has yielded the intended fruits. At least, this is not the case with our locality.”
“It’s hard to say food has reached all the affected people in the country. Government food is usually slow in arriving,” he added, noting that local roads were not in good shape, which could delay food delivery.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced Feb. 7 that the government had spent nearly $7 million on relief food in the previous two months.
Bishop Kimengich said that in Lodwar, church officials were feeding an estimated 500 people every week.
“We plan to open up various feeding centers in several parts of the locality, to reinforce our care for the needy in this current food crisis. We would hate to see anyone dead from this food crisis,” he told CNS.
“With the discovery of oil and huge water reservoirs, there is no reason why there should be famine in Turkana,” he added. “What we need is good management of these resources.
“The problem in our country, just like in other countries of Africa, is poor leadership. You couple this with corruption and impunity, and we will continue suffering yet God has given us all that we need to live,” he said.