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Interview with Tony Woods from Doon in County Limerick who has lived and worked in Kenya for 50 years. Tony is currently working with Trócaire to provide emergency assistance to people facing hunger due to drought in the north of the country.
Tony Woods left Ireland when he was just 20 to teach in Cameroon, in Central Africa. Two years later he moved to Kenya.
He is still there 50 years later, now in his 70s.
Tony is the Chancellor of the Diocese of Lodwar in northern Kenya.
The Diocese is a partner of Trócaire’s in northern Kenya and is the main provider of support for people in the absence of any significant government investment or infrastructure.
Tony works with Trócaire to provide medical care and education to the people of Turkana, a county the same size as Ireland.
With hunger on a massive scale across East Africa, his work is as important now as when he first arrived on the continent.
“We are in the middle of a prolonged drought which has been going on for more than a year now and has seen crops fail and animals die. Even if the rains come, it will not solve the problems immediately. It will be several months more before there is any type of grazing for animals or any crops to feed people,” Tony told Trócaire.
“There are other consequences of the drought too. Being near the town we unfortunately have the issue of street children. And it’s at night time of course that you find the real street children. During the day many come in and beg but it’s at night if you go out at 11pm or midnight, that time, then the children that you meet on the street are genuine street children.”
“For fun they play football with a bunch polythene bags tightly wrapped together – plastic bags litter the streets here and so are not in short supply. For food they wait until the bins are emptied and scavenge for edible scraps. They are all thin, dirty and you can see in their eyes that they are much older than their young years.”
“The number of street children is increasing. Mainly many extra have come in from the rural areas because their source of food is no longer out there. They come into the town hoping they will get an answer but that doesn’t happen unfortunately.”
“We also have conflict over the little water there is – it is terrible. Currently, there are 50,000 pastoralist people from Turkana over the border in Uganda with their cattle at a water point. They are trying to share that water point which is already under pressure with the tribes over the border. It’s a really tense situation and the Diocese with Trócaire has previously sent a delegation over the border to bring peace and stability there.”
Tony is calling on the Irish people to do what they can to support the work in northern Kenya.
“Trócaire is the conduit between the people of Ireland and those in need in the developing world. The money donated at home in Ireland is absolutely crucial. Donate to Trócaire and together we will save lives.”
Asked how he keeps going in such difficult circumstances Tony has a simple answer. “It is the people around me that inspire me. Wonderful people that deserve a life of dignity.”