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TOPIC: kenya

Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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Armenia-Azerbaijan Reignites, Greenpeace Nuke Protest, Godard Dies

👋 Ushé-ushé!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukraine continues to reconquer territory, fresh clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border leave at least 49 dead and France says adieu to two 20th-century titans of the visual arts. Meanwhile, business daily Les Echos draws a profile of Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia's top 10 billionaires who continues to grow his business despite Western sanctions.

[*Kanuri, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon]

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UK’s New Prime Minister, Saskatchewan Manhunt, Chile Says “No” To New Constitution

👋 Bonjour!*

Welcome to Monday, where Liz Truss is the new British prime minister, Chileans reject drastic changes to the country’s Constitution, and the new Lord of the Rings series becomes Amazon Prime's biggest premiere. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt and Ukraine's Livy Bereg show how the Ukraine grain deal may actually play in Putin’s hands.

[*French]

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Butterfly Wings & Wheat: How The Ukraine War Could Spark Global Food Crises

In an interconnected world, we are faced again with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect" when a localized conflict can have far-reaching consequences and trigger lasting crises. For our world's broken food systems, the war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.

-OpEd-

Could the conflict that erupted in Ukraine cause a new bread revolution in Egypt? Alas yes, the conditions are in place for this — and other similar upheavals — to happen.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The outbreak of war in Ukraine — which is upsetting, unexpected and utterly unjustifiable — again leaves us feeling powerless and overwhelmed by circumstances far beyond our control. In a deeply interconnected world, this also forces us to again reckon with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect:" how a dramatic event limited to a specific geographical area can have unexpected consequences in faraway areas of the planet, laying the foundations for serious and lasting crises.

Here, I want to focus specifically on the agri-food sector, in light of a sad fact: conflict and hunger are intimately connected phenomena, when one occurs the other follows almost naturally.

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Sudan Prime Minister Resigns, Australia COVID Peak, Ciao Venice Bridge

👋 Kia ora!*

Happy New Year! Welcome to Monday, where Sudan’s embattled prime minister resigns, Australia sees record daily COVID cases and Venice says ciao to its Instagrammable footbridge for safety reasons. Meanwhile, we look at what could bring down the budding alliance between China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

[*Maori]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Taiwan Tower Blaze, Norway Bow-And-Arrow Attack, Walruses From Space

👋 Bună ziua!*

Welcome to Thursday, where a blaze at a Taiwan tower kills at least 46, a suspect is in custody in the deadly Norway bow-and-arrow attack and scientists try to count walruses from space. We also take a look at what unites and opposes Russia's Vladimir and Ukraine's Volodymir.

[*Romanian]

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Geopolitics
Marion Douet

Can Kenya Cash In On The Global Avocado Craze?

More and more Kenyan farmers are growing avocados, the native Mexican fruit that are both profitable and relatively easy to produce. But global competition is fierce.

MURANG'A — Mwaura Morisson jokes that when he walks out in the morning and looks at the trees — some of which already carry tiny embryos of fruit — what he really sees is money. "It's not in my pocket yet," the elderly man says, smiling. "But I'm already counting how much I will make."

The farmer, his hands in the pockets of a worn out raincoat, is showing off his shamba, his plot of land, and talking about his avocado trees, which grow in a row of terraces in Murang'a county, a two-hour drive from Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. The October rains have barely begun but boots are already sinking in the viscous, red soil of this fertile region, wedged between the Aberdare mountain range and Mount Kenya, an extinct volcano with snow-capped peaks.

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Geopolitics
Berit Uhlmann

Another Consequence Of Kenya's Drought: Obesity

With drought comes malnutrition and a run to the slums, where fatty foods, sugar, and obesity await.

TURKANA COUNTY — Sand and scree wherever you look. Bushes that cling with difficulty to red, dusty earth that has long seen no water.

Turkana County, in northwest Kenya, is home to 800,000 people. About 80% of them are livestock farmers, experienced like no other in breeding animals. People here say that the Turkana can recognize their goats by the hoof prints. The milk their animals produce is inimitably sweet, a delicacy praised far beyond the region.

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Sources
Marion Douet

Soft Power: A Mentor Program To Fight Terrorism In Kenya

In the Majengo district of the southern port city, a mentoring program is trying to stop al-Shabaab​ from recruiting young people.

MOMBASA — The kamikaze who blew himself up on January 15 in the Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi lived in Majengo. Several members of al-Shabaab, the Islamic terror group who carried out the attack that killed 21, also had close links to this low-income neighborhood in the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa. Located on the island that is the heart of Mombasa, the neighborhood is made up of a few lively streets, lined with tall white buildings that feature arcades that are typical of the architecture of the great port city.

The district is known as a center of Islamic radicalization. Two imams, About Rogo and Abubaker Shariff — otherwise known as "Makaburi" ("tomb" in Swahili) — urged young people to join the al-Shabaab fight in the early part of this decade. At that time, the elegant white and green minaret of the Masjid Musa mosque, where they operated, displayed black flags celebrating the glory of the Somali Islamist militia. Since then, the two preachers have been killed, and the black flags removed. But with each new terrorist attack in Kenya, the name Majengo reappears.

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food / travel

Watch: OneShot — Rare Black Leopard Photo Caught In Darkness

"I (had) never seen a high-quality image of a wild black leopard come out of Africa," British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas wrote recently. So he sprung to attention when word arrived about a sighting at Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

Using a series of Camtraptions motion-triggered camera traps, Burrard-Lucas managed to snap this powerful shot of the ever-elusive big cat.

With OneShot, this rare photograph emerges from the darkness of the night.

Black Leopard (©Will Burrard-Lucas) | OneShot

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Migrant Lives
Sarah Deardorff Miller

Do Anti-Xenophobia Campaigns Work?

At best, pro-migrant advocacy raises awareness. At worst, it reinforces tensions, new research shows.

NEW YORK — Even as the 2016 New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants and twin UN-led global compact processes seek to improve the global response to people on the move, states are increasingly hostile toward them. Indeed, anti-refugee rhetoric seems to be everywhere these days.

From right-wing populist governments in Europe to President Donald Trump in the United States, forced migrants fleeing for their lives are being framed as dangerous, illegal and unwelcome. And in some cases, xenophobic rhetoric is being taken further still — transforming into acts of hate.

In 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that "xenophobic and racist responses to refugees and migrants seem to be reaching new levels of stridency, frequency and public acceptance." In Australia, policies that place asylum seekers in detention are often seen to be underpinned by the desire to preserve "white Australia." Hungary has seen extensive fearmongering and anti-migrant messaging, as has the United States during its recent midterm elections and throughout the Trump administration.

What specific actions can be taken to combat xenophobic acts against foreigners?

Likewise, a number of attacks on Somali refugees in Nairobi have been reported in Kenya, as have attacks on Venezuelans seeking refuge in neighboring countries. New research has shown that "transnational dynamics like the ‘war on terror" have increased far-right extremism, prejudiced attitudes toward migrants, and international xenophobia."

Unintended consequences

Broadly speaking, governments need to be held accountable for keeping refugees and other migrants safe on their soil. But what specific actions can be taken to combat xenophobic acts against foreigners? Research shows that when local actors link up with transnational advocacy organizations, it can help pressure governments to alter insufficient policies or offer protection; it can also name and shame authorities to respect rights they otherwise might neglect.

Likewise, public awareness campaigns have sought to address bias and emphasize shared humanity. South Africa's Roll Back Xenophobia campaign, for example, enlisted the help of refugees, migrant workers, police, civil society and the media to frame xenophobia as a human-rights issue with roots in the Apartheid era.

However, sometimes pro-migrant programming can backfire. It can isolate migrants or minorities within the host population by reinforcing existing boundaries and fueling tensions. According to Loren Landau and E. Tendayi Achiume of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, "heavy-handed anti-xenophobia campaigns aimed at protecting the rights of foreign minorities risk drawing them out into the open, enhancing their visibility, and making their foreignness the issue where it might not have been." Indeed, emphasizing that these groups have international allies can build resentment and anger among disadvantaged citizens who feel forgotten and excluded.

Anti-xenophobia march in Cape Town — Photo: Janah Hattingh

Moreover, to protect their own security, some displaced persons wish to stay out of the spotlight. Many prefer not to be clustered in camps, but blended into communities where they will not stand out to those who may pose a threat. They want to keep a low profile and choose not to register as refugees — particularly if they are in danger of persecution by the authorities, who may have contributed to their displacement.

In addition to posing a potential danger, it is also unclear how well pro-migrant programs actually work. "Progressive political movements championing an inclusive response to in-flows of migrants and refugees have struggled to counter extremist narratives and social distrust in host communities," write United Nations University researchers Nicola Pocock and Clara Chan. They also note that anti-racism and anti-prejudice reduction campaigns on TV, and public service announcements on radio and billboards, have not yet proven effective.

Furthermore, initiatives such as community dialogues and cultural and sports festivals can bring people together, but are usually one-off events and may not be effective in reaching those responsible for violence motivated by xenophobia. At best, they are good ways to generate awareness, but they do not address situations in which political leaders may actually benefit from stirring tensions. At worst, these initiatives can become politically charged and divisive — separating people even more.

Creative thinking

So what steps can be taken to combat xenophobia? Responses should first and foremost recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, coordination and collaboration on how to combat xenophobia should take place among different groups, including migrants, refugees, civil society groups, NGOs, UN actors, host communities and government actors.

Those looking to combat xenophobia should also look for ways to piggyback anti-xenophobia efforts on top of other, widely popular policies and priorities. Journalistic reporting should not emphasize extremes that paint migrants as either criminals or gifted/prodigies, as this is not helpful or realistic. More broadly, consistent, meaningful interactions among refugees, host communities and governments are needed to prevent violence that is motivated by xenophobia in the first place. Further research and new, creative thinking around how to foster these interactions is therefore an important part of the path forward.

Certainly, politicians in the United States and Europe have used such tactics.

Research also shows that instead of focusing on attitudes, which are unreliable predictors of behavior, programs should look at the motivations of those committing violence against refugees. The Diversity Initiative in Ukraine, for example, sought to do just this through a multi-pronged approach that drew together different actors for coordination and advocacy. This might mean targeting government officials and law-enforcement agents who participate in extortion, harassment, arbitrary detention and selective enforcement of the laws.

Programs that target the instigators, political entrepreneurs and local leaders who capitalize on distrustful climates and who get political or economic gains from discrimination and violent exclusion of "outsiders' are more likely to be effective. Many of these instigators were found to be motivated by rewards related to land, jobs or political office. Stirring up reactions to policies — often by painting a negative picture of immigrants — is sometimes the basis for xenophobic acts and can offer political advantages. Certainly, politicians in the United States and Europe, such as Trump and Marine le Pen, have used such tactics.

Pocock and Chan also write that anti-discrimination interventions should try to target "prejudices harbored by front-line public sector workers and policymakers, which could translate into discriminatory treatment." Focusing on these drivers is thus a way to deal with the root causes of xenophobic behaviors, such as marginalization and exclusion, rather than just their consequences. This will contribute to the effectiveness of anti-xenophobia campaigns, thus improving the situation for host communities and refugees alike.

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Economy
Dominic Kirui

Informal Banking Helps Kenyan Women Find Financial Autonomy

These informal banks in Kenya help women acquire financial stability, to help them take control of their income.

BUBISA —​ Orge Konchora always wanted her children to get an education, but her husband's modest salary as a driver wouldn't cover school fees —and she knew she had to help out. Although the family also had some livestock, the animals were owned entirely by her husband and most died during a drought. This meant the couple had to make an extra effort to pay for the schools and meet their household expenses.

This was not easy for the 53-year-old mother of two because in the Gabra community from which she hails — as in many of the communities that inhabit Kenya"s dry north — a woman is not allowed to own any property, be it land or livestock.

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