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  • Written by Aoife Ruth

Opinion: A little aid can provide a massive return

Participants from a Community Conversation group in Mukuru during a resource mapping process, the process helps the community identify how best they can address their issue. Photo: Concern Worldwide.In these times of financial turmoil, it is natural to question government spending and examine how our limited resources can be best put to use. Overseas aid budgets have come under intense scrutiny from citizens of countries the world over, with some people preferring that we cease all aid in favor of spending on domestic projects during this cash-strapped and difficult period – the “charity begins at home” outlook.

Many others recognize the importance of aid to the world’s poorest, whether for reasons of social justice, compassion, or diplomacy. Amidst all the voices and opinions, I have noted the growing unease and, at times, cynicism people have about aid and its efficacy. “We give and give, but nothing ever changes” is a phrase I have often heard.

Implicit in this unease is the notion that the world’s poor are simply recipients, simply needy, waiting to be led out of poverty. What we do not see represented as often is the tireless commitment and dogged determination of communities and of average community members to improve their lives, to increase their opportunities, their access to jobs, health care, and education.

On a recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya, I was fortunate to see the very real and powerful will of local people to solve problems and escape poverty. The Mukuru slum in the eastern part of Nairobi is home to over 100,000 people. Off several roads, row after row of corrugated iron and wooden shacks are crisscrossed with winding dirt lanes no more than a few feet wide. My colleagues from Concern Worldwide and our local partner organization, the Mukuru Slum Development Project, and I walked through the maze of paths, hopping over open, murky trenches filled with waste water and sewage until we reached a shed about the size of a classroom.

We were going to meet a group of residents from the Hazina and Kisii neighborhoods of Mukuru who had gathered to form the Haki Community Conversation. Inside the muggy, dimly-lit room squeezed 40 men and women, old and young, many with young children sitting on their laps. Everyone was meeting for one reason: to address local issues with local ingenuity. Used in many countries and contexts, Community Conversations are just that–meetings where people can talk about, and work to solve, the immediate challenges in their community.

The meeting started with announcements from various attendees, addressing issues that had come to light since the last meeting, such as fire safety and domestic violence. The floor then opened for anyone to raise topics that were of interest to them. One woman stood, swaddling a child in a brightly colored shawl, and asked where she could access maternity services. Thankfully, the Haki Community Conversation already has a working solution in place. It identifies pregnant women and informs them of where and how to get maternity treatment vouchers, enabling them to access free medical care during their pregnancy.

  • Written by IRIN jk/am/mw

Dadaab, Kenya: World's largest refugee camp is 'unsustainable'

On the outskirts of Dadaab, where many refugees are sheltering as the main camps are overcrowded, a family gathers sticks and branches for firewood and shelter. Vast areas of land outside Dadaab have been reduced to scrub. Photo: Andy Hall/Oxfam.[DADAAB] For months, the Kenyan government resisted opening an extension of the world’s largest refugee complex in Dadaab to accommodate Somalis displaced by drought and conflict, finally relenting in late August.

The town, about 80km from Somalia in Kenya’s arid Garissa region, has been drawing in refugees for more than two decades, throwing up complex problems that fuel Kenya’s frustration at having handled more than its share of the “Somalia problem”, says Badu Katelo, Kenya’s acting commissioner for refugees.

Somali refugees outnumber locals in Dadaab by a quarter of a million at least and counting, said J Ndamburi, the district commissioner. The three camps – Hagadera, Dagahaley and Ifo – designed for 90,000 people, now host approximately 440,000 refugees, 150,000 (all Somalis) of whom have arrived in the past three months, says the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

  • Written by Maina Waruru

Insured Kenyan farmers await drought compensation

An International Livestock Research Institute researcher discusses the livestock insurance scheme with nomadic herders in Marsabit District, in northern Kenya's great drylands. Photo: ILRI/Flickr.[NAIROBI] Insurers will assess in October whether Kenyan farmers signed up to the Index-Based Livestock Insurance scheme will receive their first payment, after the worst drought in the region for 60 years.

The scheme, which has been piloted in northern Kenya since early 2010, uses freely-available satellite data to assess the state of pastures. When the images show that pastures have dried up, farmers can claim compensation for animals that have died as a result — without insurers having to verify the deaths in person.

In Kenya about 2,500 farmers have purchased the product since its inception, paying a yearly premium of up to US$100 for 6–8 animals. No payouts have been made yet, but farmers who lost more than 15 per cent of their cattle may receive around US$180 per animal.

  • Written by IRIN aw/eo/mw

Kenya: Malnutrition levels in northeast stubbornly high

A mother and her babies who are recovering from malnutrition at a therapeutic feeding centre in Mandera town, Kenya. Photo: John Nyaga/IRIN.[NAIROBI] Malnutrition levels in pastoralist districts of northeastern Kenya have remained high, despite recent rains that boosted livestock productivity, the mainstay of the local economy, officials said.

"There could have been improvements in the nutrition situation for individuals, but it will be difficult to see an impact at population level, given the various factors that affect nutrition," said the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kenya.

The Ministry of Health and its partners recently found Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels above the UN World Health Organization's 15 percent emergency threshold in Mandera Central Districts, Wajir South and Wajir East. Mandera West recorded GAM rates above 25 percent.

  • Written by Duncan Mboya

Kenya hopes to become Africa's carbon trade hub

The retreating glaciers on Mount Kenya may be a sign of climate change. The government has allocated US$721 million to conservation. Photo: Flickr/Kalense Kid.

[NAIROBI] Kenya has announced plans to establish a regional carbon emissions trading scheme to steer Africa's carbon market.

This would hopefully position the country as the continent's carbon credit trade hub, finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta said in his budget speech to parliament earlier this month (10 June).

Kenyatta said a framework for carbon trading — in which polluters buy and sell the right to emit carbon — would be set up to outline how to register to participate in the scheme, how revenue would be shared and how to ensure accountability.

The framework would also describe development areas to be funded by the resources generated from the scheme.


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