Peer Review by ALangford (United Kingdom)

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Desperation, dust and drought: a Kenyan Crisis

By: Shanti

    Here, there is nothing but emaciation. There are skinny eyes in thing people, bony livestock eating slender grass--and the fields are nothing but dust.
    75% (1) of Kenya's 46.1 million people (2.) are farmers. Now, 2.7 million people need help getting food.(3.) It's been this way for three years. (4.)
    23 of Kenya's 47 counties are severely affected by this drought. The already cash-strapped government is expending 105 million dollars towards relief, but it's not enough. Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's president, has declared the situation a 'national disaster' and has appealed to the international community for help. (5.)
    Think the word drought, think the word desert, desperate, hungry, thirsty, poor--and does the word Africa come to mind? Quite probably. That's how these countries are shown to us, poor black people, helpful white people--and the occasional dictator, coup, or terrorist attack.
    But why is Sub-Saharan Africa so poor, so dry? As Gabrielle Walker explains in her book An Ocean of Air (6)it's partially the latitude. Moist air is sucked away from these mid-latitudes and towards the poles. It also has to do with the legacy of colonialism in all parts of Africa, for example, Cameroon (7.), and corruption and not enough education--and all sorts of complex factors that are difficult to unravel.
    There are no easy solutions, either. Sure, international aid can alleviate immediate hunger and deal with livestock before they become too thin to be useful (8.). Climate change, however, almost certainly contributes to a drought this severe, and in this sense the situation will probably only worsen as increased carbon in the atmosphere exacerbates problems worldwide.
    This drought is not isolated. Currently, about 23 out of East Africa's 47 nations are dealing with some form of drought (9.)--devastating to populations largely comprised of subsistence farmers.
    Back in Kenya, where cattle are a major source of income for most people, destocking has become commonplace. Destocking is a process where live cattle are culled before they die or become too malnourished to have any monetary value. (10.)
    The Kenyan Red Cross has been working with the people of north-eastern and coastal regions of Kenya to destock livestock. This can be a traumatic experience for those involved, where at least 14% of people, according to Red Cross reports, rely on livestock, not only for financial support, but also for prestige within their community. (11)
    Shukry Abdullaih, of Tana River County, who cares for 6 children on her own since her co-wife died last year, said "My husband is unemployed and so we depend a lot on our cattle for our livelihood." (12)
    "I have lost 80 animals and even the 35 left are weak. At this rate, I doubt they will survive past the month of February," said Alidema Galgalo, of Marsabit River County. Galgalo and Abdullaih are two of many across Kenya and indeed all of sub-Saharan Africa whose choices have been stolen by the arid land. (13)
    "I will not tolerate anybody who would try to take advantage of this situation to defraud public funds," said Kenyatta in the statement issued on 10th Februrary. (14) But with Kenya's history of corruption at all levels of the government, (15.) one can't help but wonder if this ultimatum will be followed.
    This is a situation that goes beyond hunger. Fighting for land is common among those who look after the herds. (16) In early February,for example, 11 people died when cattle herders attacked land.(17) And hunger itself can cause stunting for at least two generations, lack of ability to focus, and decreases the strength of the immune system.  (18)
    Depression as a result of these desperate times is not uncommon either. "The worst and saddest thing is that some people have committed suicide as they could not deal with the suffering, and not one but a number of them," explained Umuro Katelo, who comes from Marsabit county, an area particularly effected by the drought. The drought is predicted to at last until at least April 2017. (19)
    Even the UN, whose long arms extend across the planet, and whose budget is larger than any other organisation in the world, is struggling to make ends meet. The World Food Program said that it needs $29 million to cover school meals in parts of Kenya for the next 6-9 months. For many children, school meals are an essential part of their nutrition, perhaps the only good meal they get all day. (20)
    As climate change and a hundred other causes, tied together with the chain of poverty, create a drought that seems everlasting, it's hard to find hope in Kenya. All that seems possible is to glare at the sky--and wish.

2. Ibid.
6. An Ocean of Air, Gabrielle Walker, Bloomsbury 2008 (<--check this pub date)
7. Not sure if this is an appropriate source
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid. (do I need paragraph references?)

Message to Readers

Does this make sense? Do I need to change the order? Are the sources okay? Do I extrapolate too much? Does the ending work? Do I need more details? Is the tone objective? Do I sound like a foreign correspondent? I would love feedback.

Peer Review

I love the writer's careful and thorough way of drawing the reader into the article, but in a way in which the reader does not necessarily know it is happening. It's very subtle, which works well - very blatantly trying to evoke the pity of the reader is much less substantial in its impact than what this writer does - she introduces shared issues as links between the reader, who is distant from the situation, and those who are trapped within it, which allows us to be more emotionally involved. I also love her quotes - she gives personal information about the speaker she has chosen succinctly beforehand, which involves us more in what they are saying.

I think that what she needs to work on is structure - she has a wealth of brilliantly informative statistics but she has to make sure they do not hinder her formation of a strong structure. It seems often as though she is basing her text around the statistic - and, as someone who writes articles myself, I know how hard it is not to include something interesting that you've found out. However, it should not be to the detriment of a controlled piece. She needs to preplan structure more and have clear-cut sections, for examples an introduction, causes, consequences, solutions, predictions and conclusions. These should have even weighting. What can happen within this piece is that the writer can introduce seemingly unrelated things at random points, which can be confusing and stop the reader from following the thread of the story successfully.

I'd ask what their opinion of the West is, especially my country, the UK - the writer comments tactfully on the difficulties with money at the end, but I'd say that it's disgraceful when some people are going through this that, for example, we're spending £369 million of taxpayer money on repairing Buckingham Palace (which the Crown could pay for using just one year of profits) yet claiming we don't have enough money for international aid causes such as this

Your use of language is beautiful, you're clearly well-informed and you use statistics elegantly and in a well-integrated fashion. Overall, this reads really well and it's clear you're passionate about the cause. However, I would advise you to rethink the structure because it can come across as meandering at times.

Reviewer Comments

Well done - I really enjoyed reading this lovely piece!