Kenya Cuts Food Taxes After Four Die Of Hunger

NAIROBI, Kenya — An infant was left suckling on her mother’s lifeless body last week after the woman died of hunger in Kenya’s drought-stricken north. The heartbreaking scene is one reason the government on Wednesday cut taxes on maize and wheat.

Prices on food and fuel are rising globally, but higher costs are hitting residents in East Africa particularly hard.

A relative and a witness said the mother who was nursing a two-month-old baby died a week-ago after days of going without regular meals because she could not afford to buy food.

Her death brings the number of people reported to have died in Kenya from hunger to five.

The Kenya Red Cross over the weekend said that four people died in a separate area in northern Kenya.

The Kenyan government announced Wednesday that it was removing the tax on maize and wheat imports in a bid to cushion citizens from the effects of rising global food prices.

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga told parliament that the government also wants to remove all taxes on kerosene, the main fuel used for cooking and lighting houses in Kenya. Odinga said the high cost of petroleum products, due to the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa, has led to a high inflation rate in the country.

He asked parliament to urgently pass a motion his office will present to remove the taxes on kerosene.

Odinga said in the long-term Kenya has to reduce dependency on imported oil by turning to renewable energy.

“We will maximize generation of geothermal and other renewable energy and totally replace kerosene with clean energy, “Odinga said. He said the country must also work to ensure that it produces sufficient food for itself.

Odinga said due the sharp increase in the cost of living, the government will announce an increase to the minimum wage on Sunday.

The Kenya Red Cross spokeswoman, Nelly Muluka, said that four people – two children aged eight and 10 – a 65-year-old man and 55-year-old woman had died of hunger this month in Nakurio region of the Turkana district. Turkana is about 400 miles (649 kilometers) north of the capital, Nairobi.

Thomas Ngare,58, said his 30-year-old daughter Napak Katiya died last Wednesday in her sleep with her two-month-old baby by her side in another village in the Turkana district.

He said Katiya was going without regular meals despite the fact that she was breast-feeding.

“Even I did not have means to help her,” he told the Associated Press by phone.

Ngare said maize was scarce in the remote area they live in, and lately when it is available in the market, the price is too high for the residents.

He said many of the residents in the area depend on relief food from the donor agencies.

Richard Moru, a resident of the area, said that since last week relief agencies have distributed food aid to residents that has temporarily alleviated the hunger situation.


Also published on Huffington Post