State’s affordable food plan laudable over virus crisis

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 00:00 |
Maize farming. Photo/Courtesy

The government’s move to set up a programme to provide affordable food to Kenyans caught up in the coronavirus crisis is timely step in the right direction.

That the measures to tame the spread of the deadly respiratory disease have adversely affected the economy and left majority of Kenyans in a more vulnerable position cannot be gainsaid. 

Thousands of people working in sectors such as the hospitality and service industries, which have been grounded by the global travel restrictions and lockdowns, have either been send home with half or no pay.  

It is, therefore, encouraging that the ministry of Agriculture is taking stock of the food reserves across the country with the intention of buying and selling to the needy at an affordable price. 

However, as the government mobilises resources to embark on this noble cause, it has to remain alive to the machinations of cartels that often distort the food chain to make a killing when food shortage strikes.  

There is need for transparency in identifying households that are genuinely in need and avoid taking the programme in the route affirmative initiatives, such as Kazi Kwa Vijana, took.

The latter aimed at addressing youth employment but ended up being a cash cow for unscrupulous public officials. 

The strength of a nation lies in how it supports its weakest at a time like this, when the socio-economic order has been disrupted by a virus which has infected more than 730,000 people globally and claimed close to 35,000 lives.

In Kenya, the infection figure stands at 50 with one death and one recovery reported so far.

 And one of the forgotten groups is the street families and the homeless in urban centres. For them, the call to stay at home and ensure social distancing rings hollow.

They have no home in the first place and are badly exposed to the vagaries of the weather and other afflictions.

These are the kind of people we must think about and come up with programmes to provide them with food, shelter and other essentials. Unless this happens, they will be the weakest link in the efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

There are many lessons to borrow from other countries in managing vulnerable citizens. We need to act now.

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