Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kenya drought leaves 4m needing handouts

Medeshi
By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi
Published: 4:56PM BST 22 Sep 2009

Three failed rainy seasons have left up to four million Kenyans needing food handouts and trucked-in water as the latest in a series of droughts sweeps through the Horn of Africa.
As many as 19 million people are currently affected by the lack of rain in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Harvests have failed in many places and food prices have increased by as much as 130 per cent.

Close to the town of Elwak in northern Kenya, water tankers arrive only every four of five days and when they appear there are fierce fights over the precious few litres given to each family.
As the drought deepens, community elders predict that further bloodshed at water delivery points is inevitable.
Already, the escalating struggle for survival between people and animals has resulted in at least two babies being snatched by starving hyaenas which prowl the perimeter of Elwak's makeshift camps at dusk.
"My month-old baby boy was taken by hyaenas two weeks ago – somebody found his body 10 miles away from here a few days later," Habiba Malim, 49, a former nomad, told Christian Aid researchers during a recent visit.
"The hyaenas are emaciated and attracted by the water in the open tarpaulins, so even though we light small fires to keep them away after dark, we can't stop them altogether." Despite a small amount of basic food supplies starting to trickle in from the UN's World Food Program and other aid agencies, Habiba, like many others, is now only managing to eat one tiny, uncooked meal each day.
"We have very little food or clean water to drink or to cook with and I genuinely fear for my life and that of my remaining eight children.
"This is even worse than the drought we had in 2005 and if the rains don't come soon I don't know what will happen to us," she added.
Posted by Medeshi at 4:08 PM 0 comments
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Ambassadorship, Anyone?
Ambassadorship, Anyone?
Written by Benjamin Joffe-Walt
Published Thursday, August 27, 2009
They spend their lives living in places like Rome, Paris, Buenos Aires and Beijing. They spend their days shaking hands and smiling, and their evenings drinking wine with influential folk from all walks of life. They eat regularly at the best restaurants a country has to offer... The life of an ambassador - regular parties, good pay, superb benefits - is seductive to many.
But Israeli diplomats seem to have found one exception to the rule: Eritrea.
Apparently the Jewish State has been struggling to find a diplomat willing to serve as the country's ambassador to the East African nation for over a year.
"It's not clear to me what's going on," Tesfamariam Tekeste, Eritrea's ambassador to Israel, told The Media Line. "For the last one or two years Israel has been without an ambassador. The Israelis are telling me they can't find someone but I can't understand why."
Tekeste said that while the absence of an ambassador was not good for the two countries' "cordial relationship", it was up to Israel how to proceed.
"We want to maintain our relationship and an ambassador will help, but this is up to the Israeli government," the ambassador said. "If they want to appoint someone they are welcome. If they want to close the embassy they are welcome.
The ambassador said he had been offended by the depiction of Eritrea in an Israeli newspaper's report on the vacancy.
"No food, no water, no electricity - it's rubbish what I read in the newspaper," Tekeste said. "it's ridiculous these kinds of reports. The reality is far from that."
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said it was a challenge finding people willing to serve in countries like Eritrea
"This is just a circumstantial thing," Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told The Media Line. "It’s always difficult to find people for hardship countries and Eritrea is a hardship country, believe me. When you wake up every morning and you don't know if you'll have electricity or water, that's a hardship country."
"It's not just about finding qualified candidates," Palmor stressed. "This is not the army and you can't force an ambassadorship on anyone. Their families need to agree and there are so many aspects that need to be taken care of: provisions for your children's education, employment for the spouse, etc."
Shlomo Aronson, professor of politics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, suggested the absence may be due to a lack of qualified personnel, not a lack of diplomats interested in serving in Eritrea.
"The main job of an Israeli ambassador is talking to the people, not the government," he told The Media Line. "You cannot count on too many people who speak Swahili, or a local language in a country with 250 tribes and just as many languages."
Aronson said the majority of appointments were based on professional qualifications.
"The Foreign Minister, in this case Avigdor Lieberman, has the right to appoint a few people to some positions, especially the ambassador to the U.S., U.N., Germany, France and Great Britain," he said. "But the rest of the ambassadorships are all staffed by career diplomats so the decisions are to a large extent professional and depend on linguistic skills, experience and availability."

Insiders say the time between an ambassador’s position being vacated to the time the position is filled can be quite long.
When an ambassador position opens up, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s procedure is to open an internal tender for all qualified ministry employees.
If there is no suitable or available candidate for the position, as is the case with Eritrea, the position can be opened to all Israeli civil servants from various ministries.
Applications are then reviewed by an appointment committee, which makes a list of recommendations to the government.
Upon government approval the candidate is sent to the host government, which also needs to confirm the appointment.
Only then can the new ambassador start preparing for going abroad.
On arrival in the host country the ambassador has to present a letter of credentials from the Israeli president, after which they can start working as ambassador.
Requests for comment from the Israeli embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, were refused.

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