- A New Zealand company producing dog food has offered its products to aid starving children in Kenya. The producer maintains her special nutritious dry food mix is fit for human consumption, but Kenyans are offended and outraged by the offer. Government officials and aid organisations have rejected the offered 42 tonnes of "dog food".
The peculiar offer started with an innocent holiday stay of a young "Kiwi" woman in Kenya, where the ongoing drought and hunger left a deep impression. Back in North Canterbury in New Zealand and with a determination to take action, she contacted a friend, dog food producer Christine Drummond, who also was moved by the tales of hunger. They came up with the idea of shipping 42 tonnes of dried dog food to Kenya's starving children.
Kenyan authorities, who recently declared a national disaster because of the food crisis, however find the dog food offer of "bad taste". Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told the 'Daily Nation' newspaper of Nairobi that any food aid must be up to standard. "Kenyan children are not in such shortage of food to resort to eating dog food," he said.
Mr Mutua emphasised that offering dog food to Kenyans was "an insult of the worst kind" according to local traditions. Also humanitarian organisations, hospital personnel and other institutions in close contact with the mal-nourished population have stated their outrage at the offer, demanding that Kenyan children suffering from the famine had a special right to be treated with dignity.
Aid organisations such as Oxfam have refused to receive the food aid. Several Kenyan state institutions have made it clear that the distribution of Ms Drummond's dry food will not be tolerated. The Director of Kenya's Medical Services, Dr James Nyikal, assured his countrymen that the dog food mixture would not be allowed distributed for human consumption.
Kenyan authorities indeed supervise the quality of relief food that is distributed among the estimated 3.2 million famine victims, mainly in the north-eastern parts of the country. If the relief food, be it from national depots or imported food aid donations, does not meet minimum standards, its distribution is prevented.
Only today, the 'Daily Nation' reported that more than 40 tonnes of relief food has been seized on suspicion that it is unfit for human consumption. The food was seized at the National Cereals and Produce Board depot after local leaders said that unwholesome food was being distributed to hunger-stricken families. It was discovered that the maize was infested with weevils and fungus.
Ms Drummond however holds that her food aid offer cannot be classified in the same manner. She claims to use it for herself and her children as a tasty food supplement to their morning cereals, being rich on nutrition, vitamins and minerals. The dry food, she claims, is indeed fit for human consumption and is mainly based on maize, mixed with dried meat, seafood, vegetables, cereals and vitamins.
After creating worldwide headlines, she claims to have been "totally misrepresented" by international media. She was not planning to ship normal dog food to Kenya, but a special mix of dried ingredients particularly fit for mal-nourished children. Most ingredients "have never been used in our dog food," she told the local press in New Zealand.
Since she made her offer, Ms Drummond has "had to go to great lengths to apologise to people around the world," she told 'The Asburton Guardian', a local newspaper. "It is not a dog food. It is a natural food supplement to be added to your regular diet," she emphasised. She still hoped the food relief offer would be accepted and distributed in Kenya.
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