Amani National Congress (ANC) Party Leader, Musalia Mudavadi yesterday raised concerns over the current food shortage in the country saying the government should prioritise availability of staple food, as it fights the coronavirus disease.
Mudavadi said the food situation is worrying owing to low strategic food reserves, the outcome of which might be a catastrophe in coming days.
“Without causing undue alarm, I urge the government to prioritise staple food availability… if the coronavirus pandemic goes arm-in-arm with famine, the outcome will be a catastrophe.
The emergency team that has been established to manage the coronavirus situation will, hopefully, ensure that vulnerable populations do not succumb to either the virus, or to famine,” said Mudavadi.
On food crop production, Mudavadi urged the government to ensure the country does not lose this farming season.
“We have not heard much about this in the various briefs from the State. Farmers cannot be left to their own fate.
The Government must get involved – it must monitor and support each stage in the farming cycle in the country’s food basket zones,” he said.
Reports already indicate that the country is facing a crippling food shortage, with Strategic Food Reserve (SFR) saying its stores have almost nil stock.
And reeling from the effects of locust invasion, a struggling economy and now coronavirus crisis, which has virtually shut down the country, there are fears that the situation could get worse.
Several other leaders have also urged Government to come up with a stringent hunger rescue plan in the face of coronavirus crisis, given that a majority of the population lives from hand to mouth.
At the same time, Mudavadi said several other sectors have also been affected, with the economy taking a hit as the shilling slide against major international currencies by the day.
“Clearly, this is one of the most difficult times to be in charge of Government – and it is with a lot of empathy that I am making these remarks.
The future of education is in limbo. There is a general sense of hopelessness and helplessness in the country…
The onus is on Government to win the trust of people and rally them fully behind the war against coronavirus.
Loss of the people’s confidence could have catastrophic outcomes,” he said.
Mudavadi made the remarks as he also called for merit in re-examining cases of persons whose families have been caught up by cessation directive, with potential harmful effects.
The former deputy prime minister said the government should consider seeking ways of sieving some of the very genuine cases to avoid creating new problems as the coronavirus disease challenge is managed.
“There are underage children whose parents have been caught on the wrong side of the divide.
A parent who had travelled to Nyeri or Embu, for instance, may not have had the opportunity to get back to Nairobi before the sudden clampdown took effect.
There is merit in asking about the impact of keeping such a person away from her family or her children – and who may not have anybody else to look after them,” said Mudavadi in a statement.
But even as he called for re-examination of individual cases, Mudavadi called for strict compliance of Government’s directive towards containing spread of coronavirus saying if followed, it will minimise the risk that the virus has exposed the country to.
“Ring-fencing Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties from the rest of the country are only one of the latest measures. Naturally, it is painful.
It is going to bring many things to a standstill over the next three weeks, at the very least.
Yet this is part of the price we must pay in pursuit of the greater goal of saving our country from the scourge of coronavirus,” said Mudavadi.
At the same time, he called for clarity as regards Government policies citing confusion that has arisen over President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on clearing outstanding payments, which was subsequently received with relief.
However, the relief was short lived when Controller of Budget, Dr Margaret Nyakango issued another directive, effectively cancelling the President’s communication.
“In her communication of March 31, the Controller of Budget, stopped all payments by the State, except salaries.
This is both confusing and painful to suppliers. I urge Government to revisit this matter and issue one clear statement – a statement that is sensitive to the plight of suppliers,” he said.