Close

PHILANTHROPY FATIGUE IS REAL

Red Cross wins more cynics

In Summary

•  We had our doubts about the charity's interest in long-term interventions.

• The stalled Chesirimion Dam confirms this cynicism.

The 2019 season of fumbling from floods to droughts may not be a boom for the Kenya Red Cross like previous disasters. The charity is being told even the most generous may not donate when accountability is not guaranteed. Philanthropy fatigue is real.

While charities may harvest when disasters strike, the victims are the starving and thirsty pastoralists in Turkana, Baringo, Wajir, Elgeyo Marakwet and Samburu. Evidence of theft of public money, and fickle priorities, is the absence of basic services. United Nations secretary general Ban-ki Moon captures the consequences of theft by state officers:

"Corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars and shillings of squandered or stolen government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of hospitals, schools, clean water, roads, food reserves, and power generation. The money is often diverted to personal use, or sick priorities that do not transform lives."

Unless the Kenya Red Cross addresses the cynicism, it may find itself in the same basket with state thieves, who plunder public accounts. The Abbas Gullet-led charity shouldn't get there. The constituency on whose trust it rides, wants transparency before they can donate to save lives in pastoral counties.  

But cynics were throwing butts and barbs at Kenya Red Cross, long before the public knew about the stalled Chesirimion Dam in Tiaty constituency, Baringo. A cynic claimed, "You bought a hotel the last time we donated. What more do you want to buy?"

Another was equally cynical, "You want money to buy apartment blocks. I am not boarding; try county governments." Work on the stalled pan began in 2012. About Sh120 million from Kenyans for Kenya relief kitty was supposed to fund long-term interventions.

Unless the Kenya Red Cross addresses the cynicism, it may find itself in the same basket with state thieves, who plunder public accounts. The Abbas Gullet-led charity shouldn't get there. The constituency on whose trust it rides, wants transparency before they can donate to save lives in pastoral counties

Chesirimion, a shoddy, earthen water pan, was to provide water in phase one. It would store water for irrigation in the second phase. The excuse: the money wasn't enough. Another excuse: a constructor of Loruk-Marigat road blocked two rivers that were supposed to supply water to the dam.

The charity says the water pan was handed over to the Baringo government. But the community is still asking for emergency relief, seven years after the long-term intervention failed.

The Kenya Red Cross lost us in 2015, after community water rights lobbyists from OurWaterOurLife staged a sit-in at the charity's offices in South C, Nairobi. We would not leave without meeting Abbas. Earlier calls to the charity did not work; a visit was advised. The wait was long. But we weren't in a hurry.

Abbas walked in late, heard of the stubborn visitors, but he left before midday. He had more urgent business to attend to elsewhere. Before leaving, he delegated our reception to another officer. The officer was not welcoming, and we told him as much.

Our report of dying livestock and waterborne diseases in midwest Karachuonyo was not news. He told us Kenya Red Cross receives more depressing news than ours. He saw no emergency when we asked Kenya Red Cross to help rehabilitate a dying Kobondo water pan.

The pan, on the border of Kibiri and North wards, Karachuonyo constituency, in West Karachuonyo, was then down to a deluge. But a community of 38,000 people depended on it as their source of water. There were no signs of rain that late March day of 2015.  The rains had failed the previous year as well.

Another officer heard our rowdy discussion. He invited us to his office, took notes, and then called Homa Bay. He asked the Homa Bay Kenya Red Cross office to assess the situation in West Karachuonyo. Four days later, Kenya Red Cross responders arrived in Kibiri with chemicals to filter the muddy water.

Within two weeks of the visit, the pan dried up. The villagers had plenty of chemicals, but no water to filter. We had asked Red Cross for a medium-term intervention, like de-silting the muddy pan, before the long rains of 2015.  

When a United Kingdom charity, Comic Relief, asked for a local organisation to work with to address the water situation, Kenya Red Cross wasn't keen. We had our doubts about the charity's interest in long-term interventions. The stalled Chesirimion Dam confirms this cynicism, but the charity can still rekindle hope and humanity in our people.