Thursday, 12 June 2014

Difficult times drive more into poverty

The increased terrorism alert which led tour operators to stop flights and withdraw British holidaymakers from Kenya is having a huge impact on our community of Watamu .
The village depends entirely on tourism and the loss of British holiday trade,  just as the rainy season was nearing an end and hotels looking forward to a new season, will see many people, already struggling to eke out a living, pushed into poverty and despair.
Last month, after a series of bombing and terrorist incidents in some parts Kenya, the Foreign Office warned Britons against all but essential travel to parts of Kenya, including parts of Mombasa.  Thomson and First Choice, evacuated  400 customers, including those in holidaying in Watamu, and cancelled all further flights to Mombasa until October. Other tour operators followed suit, and Governments in the US, Australia and France issued similar travel advice to its nationals.  
Even though Watamu outside the no-go area, it is being drained of its lifeblood, tourism.
And as more families are driven to desperation, more children will suffer, making the work of our Happy House ever more crucial.
Mama Sue says: “ I am watching the rain pour down, the strong winds are blowing the palms trees into submission.
What a different place we live in during the rains. Of course we welcome the rains to grow crops for  much needed food , but it makes life very hard for the local people.
The roads are flooded because of no drainage system. Children wade through puddles up to their knees carrying their shoes, on their way to local schools. Their uniforms sodden on little backs, no one has a coat.
 With the rain come infections, coughs, colds , pneumonia and the dreaded malaria. Every visit to the doctor has to be paid for, every tablet prescribed comes at a cost .
Many people who don't have work during this time of year have no food on the table, no money for doctors. This year will be catastrophic
With tourist flights cancelled until the earliest October, there won’t be the work in hotels and there will be so much unemployment, not just in our local community but across Kenya.
Bars and restaurants are boarded up, their owners staying in Italy. The rains lash the deserted beaches there are no tourists for the beach boys to charm, no food for the boys in their fancy sunglasses. Nobody to but the wares from the beach traders and souvenir shops.
When the rains finish there will still be no tourists. Crime increases as people become hungry and desperate.
Children become sick, neglected, abused and, yes, abandoned as desperate parents  don't know which way to turn. 
Our Happy House will be more important than ever. I know we will be stretched to the limit in the next few months for beds and for funds.
Parents of the children who attend our schools will not be able to pay fees, how will we pay the teachers?
 It is a very distressing time for all. 
I have faith. We will batten down the hatches and stand together as the loving welcoming family that we are, and, yes, we will always have room for another.
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