Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The man behind Kenya’s largest relief food drive

.It was a pleasure to read of the outstanding work being done by my old friend Abbas Gullet, Secretary General of the Kenya Red Cross.  I have known Abbas for over 18 years and have followed vhis career back in Kenya with great interest. Here is an article from the Daily Nation in Nairobi.


Kenya Red Cross Society Secretary General Abbas Gullet. Photo/FILE

He was orphaned at the tender age of six and does not ever want to hear that a person has died of hunger

Mr Abbas Gullet, the man at the helm of the Kenya Red Cross Society, is in the face of a massive humanitarian crisis in Northern Kenya triggered by the worst drought in the region in more than six decades, putting 3.5 million Kenyans’ lives in danger.

Flash floods have also recently conspired to worsen the anguish of the drought-stricken pastoralists in Turkana.

The society, working with corporations and media houses, recently launched a campaign called Kenyans for Kenya which this week had raised about $7 million (about Sh650 million) to feed the hungry.

An early riser, Mr Gullet’s day at the office begins well before 7am

Saw a dead person

“Our mandate is to protect lives and alleviate suffering and it is as disheartening as it is belittling when I hear this debate about whether people have died or not,” he told Saturday Nation in between taking calls at his Nairobi offices this week.

“Okay, we saw a dead person in Turkana but we don’t want to engage in a shouting match about it. In any case, even the many others we saw there who are suffering should not have been in that condition. It is those pictures that we brought from Turkana which inspired the funds-drive,” he says.

Apart from the Kenya for Kenyans campaign, the Red Cross provides relief food in Ijara, Garissa, Kwale, Malindi and Kibwezi where 400,000 schoolchildren, pregnant women, the elderly and HIV and Aids orphans are fed.

Drawn criticism

A few minutes into the interview, he plunges into the investments the organisation is involved in, which have been criticised.

Critics say humanitarian organisations should not engage in business.

The Kenya Red Cross is created through an Act of Parliament.

He says: “The aid business has become very competitive with many NGOs competing for the same resources. Donor funding is diminishing by the day and we had to think of a way of sustaining our programmes,” he said.

“We got a loan of $22.5 million (Sh2.1) billion from Equity Bank payable over 10 years to build hotels in the country after realising there was inadequate bed capacity and that the investment would employ many young Kenyans,” he said.

By JULIUS SIGEI jsigei@ke.natiomedia.com

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