Assocaited France Press (AP) 2/1/2005
Inmates Skip Lunch to Feed Fellow Kenyans
By RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 35 minutes ago
NAIROBI, Kenya - Thousands of prisoners skipped lunch Sunday to send food to fellow Kenyans affected by food shortages, a senior prison official said.
Most of Kenya’s estimated 50,000 prisoners gave up their ration of beans and corn porridge on the day President Mwai Kibaki declared the food shortages caused by drought a national disaster in an effort to speed up relief efforts, officials said.
"In the next six months, up to 2.5 million of our people will be in need of famine relief. This represents close to 10 percent of the country’s population," Kibaki said during New Year’s celebrations.
Prisoners wanted to help after watching images of starving Kenyans on TV, reading about food shortages in newspapers and discussing the situation with visiting relatives, said John Isaac Odongo, the commandant of Kenya’s prison staff training college.
"As human beings, they also feel like other Kenyans ... They asked themselves, can they forgo one meal in a lifetime for the sake of other Kenyans? The answer was that will not even affect their health," Odongo said.
Initial estimates show that Kenya needs about $153 million to provide emergency food to hundreds of thousands of victims of drought. Additional money is needed to provide water for people and animals, education, health care, livestock and seeds for farmers, Kibaki said.
Convicts at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison said the food shortage has been harming their relatives.
"Those suffering out there are our brothers and sisters and we need them once we get out of this place," said inmate One James Kamutu.
Drought has also triggered food shortages in neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia.
More than a million Ethiopian cattle herders face extreme shortages after the failure of rains that normally replenish water sources and sustain livestock through the dry season.
In anarchic Somalia, about 2 million people need humanitarian aid and drought has affected its southern region.