By Treezer Michelle Atieno
In November 2022, reports emerged that senior government officials had expressed concern over the disappearance of relief food intended for drought-stricken victims in Northern Kenya. The County Commissioner of Garissa Boaz Cherutich was the first to raise the alarm after locals complained about not receiving food aid despite being dispatched.
There have been numerous cases where government officials have engaged in the illicit practices of selling relief food meant for marginalized communities to traders. This unfortunate behavior has had dire consequences on vulnerable populations already struggling with food insecurity.
One such notable case occurred in Turkana County in 2019 when it was reported that government officials were involved in diverting and selling maize meant for distribution among drought-affected communities. Turkana County is one of Kenya’s marginalized regions characterized by high levels of poverty and food insecurity, making this revelation particularly egregious. Public outrage ensued, leading to investigations by relevant authorities.
Another incident took place in Mandera County in 2020 when accusations surfaced that government officials were involved in the sale of relief food. Mandera County is another marginalized region located in northeastern Kenya facing multiple challenges including droughts and insecurity.
The sale of relief food by public servants constitutes a grave violation of public trust as well as a betrayal of assisting those most vulnerable within society.
Such actions have serious repercussions on affected communities already dealing with significant hardships like poverty, and limited access to basic services, environmental factors such as floods or droughts exacerbate their precarious situation further. Diverting and selling essential nutrition denies them access while perpetuating cycles of poverty, undermining efforts towards sustainable development goals.
Numerous factors contribute to these unethical practices, encompassing corruption, lack of oversight mechanisms, and inadequate accountability structures. Together, they foster an environment that is ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous individuals who seek personal gain by taking advantage of the increased demand for aid supplies in markets.
More needs to be done to prevent government officials from selling relief food meant for marginalized communities from happening again. Strengthening governance structures, alongside enhancing transparency and accountability mechanisms while promoting citizen participation, are crucial steps toward addressing this problem effectively.