|Extreme Hunger in Turkana|
|Rotting Cabbages and Potatoes in Central Kenya|
In my opinion, the missing link is what I call lack of "distribution stimuli". A stimulus is something that rouses or accelerates action, feeling, or thought. It’s also something that provokes response. For the market to respond, hunger and death is not enough. The market is roused by the opportunity for monetary and economic gains. This is absent in a situation where the people dying of hunger lack purchasing power. Hence, from an economic and market perspective the problem of distribution is basically the lack of purchasing power. Of course, other factors such as insecurity and lack of infrastructure may play a role in hindering distribution but these are secondary and not primary. The purchasing power of the people living in the regions afflicted by hunger should be boosted in order to stimulate distribution. If there was money to make, merchants would quickly find a way to take food into these areas.
Lack of purchasing power condemns the people of Turkana and North Eastern of Kenya to the vagaries of humanitarian aid. It is a character of humanitarian aid not to move into an area before a catastrophe has happened. Before pictures of malnutrition and dying children and women flash around in the media, humanitarian aid will not mobilize. At the same time, the government will deny any presence of a crisis and the scale of humanitarian organizations’ response remains low. When humanitarian aid moves in, at last, the situation is usually out of hand. This is what is happening in country today. Humanitarian mobilization is in high gear but for many it comes too late.
When a crisis occurs, immediate humanitarian action is necessary to avert a serious catastrophe in the short-term. However, a long-term solution should be economic empowering for those affected so as to increase their purchasing power and stimulate distribution.