KENYA: Alice Wanjiru, “Now it’s no meat, less ugali”
Source: IRIN News.
Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
NAIROBI, 16 January 2009 (IRIN) – With the UN World Food Programme already feeding up to 1.2 million hungry Kenyans, hundreds of thousands more – the urban poor and those in drought-affected areas – are grappling with shortages, high food prices and the impact of post-election violence in early 2008, which contributed to a reduction in food production in the country’s agricultural areas.
On 15 January, IRIN spoke to Alice Wanjiru, 44, a resident of Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, Kibera, who survives by selling vegetables in the sprawling slum:
“The prices of most foodstuffs have almost doubled since last year; my husband, our three children and I have had to make changes in what we eat and the quantities of food. Instead of using the whole 2kg packet of unga [maize meal] we now use a half or three-quarters to make ugali [porridge made out of maize meal]. And now we never eat meat.
“So far I have not seen the subsidised unga [a 5kg packet of maize meal retailing at Ksh130 or US$1.50] the government was supposed to make available to the poor; in fact things have become even harder.
“My only source of income is selling these tomatoes and my husband is a ‘jua kali’ [does odd jobs in the informal sector] man yet we have three children whom we have to feed and take to school. Even schools have increased fees this year.
“With the high food prices, it is hard to recover from the loss of property we incurred during the violence [in January and February 2008] that followed the elections; I used to own five [iron-roof, walled] commercial buildings; four of which I rented out, and used one to sell grains and cereals.
“During the violence, these buildings were first looted then later set ablaze; now I have been reduced to selling vegetables. I even have a letter from the city council stating that the buildings are mine but they have since been rebuilt and other people are occupying them and doing business; the city council letter apparently means nothing.
“Now I am worried about how I will get money to ensure that my children remain in school. I appeal to the government to help us, especially those of us who lost property during the post-election violence; we need compensation in order to get back to the [economic] position we were in before the violence.”