My Commonwealth Games dream is not for medals but for survival

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What will be the legacy of the 2022 Commonwealth Games? If the Games’ values ​​are “to help athletes, citizens and communities to realize their aspirations and ambitions,” the legacy alone cannot be just sport, argues Christian Aid’s Karimi Kinoti



<p>Students at El Molo Bay Primary School drink from a tap in Loiyangalani, northern Kenya, July 13, 2022.  At least 18 million people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of starvation as the region’s worst drought in 40 years (Getty Images)</p><div data-ad-id=
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Students at El-Molo Bay primary school drink from a tap on July 13, 2022 in Loiyangalani, northern Kenya. At least 18 million people in the Horn of Africa are suffering severe hunger as the region’s worst drought in 40 years devastates (Getty Images)

Athletes dream of fame. All the training and dedication for a single moment to shine. This week is her chance at the Commonwealth Games. Athletes from the 71 nations of the Commonwealth gather in the host city of Birmingham for the so-called Friendly Games.

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I’m not an athlete, but I also have a dream. My dream is not for medals but for survival. In Kenya, my country of birth and one of the participating countries in Birmingham, people face more than one competition.

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Kenya, along with the rest of East Africa, is suffering from its worst drought in 40 years. Fatuma Molu, a widowed mother of eight in northern Kenya, explains: “We all depend on rain for food. If it doesn’t rain, that means there’s no food.”

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If this climate-related crisis wasn’t already desperately acute, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine turned a difficult situation into a dire crisis. Africans have fallen victim to a war some 5,000 miles away, while skyrocketing food and fuel prices are driving hundreds of thousands to starvation.

Millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia face desperate measures to survive in the face of crop failures, livestock deaths, water shortages and extreme hunger. Women and girls in particular are starving. The threat of starvation and death is very real.

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With a third of the world’s population represented at the Commonwealth Games, millions of eyes are on Birmingham. This could be a powerful moment as we come together to help the vulnerable people affected by a hunger crisis in East Africa.

A mother, holding her son, waits for care in the village of Purapul in the Loiyangalani area of ​​Kenya (AFP via Getty Images)

Like the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games are unique among sporting events. Not only is the number of participating countries huge, but the Games also have the ambition to be more than just a sport.

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In fact, the Commonwealth Games Federation describes a core pillar of its mission in its Transformation 2022 strategy as “to help athletes, citizens and communities achieve their aspirations and ambitions”.

The challenge for the athletes at these games, especially the long distance run for the other Kenyans, will undoubtedly be getting on the podium. For the leaders of the countries they represent, the challenge is quite different. Your challenge is to live up to these shared values.

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Unfortunately, for those of us working to help those in need, the values ​​of the games quickly become little more than words scribbled on a piece of paper.

My challenge falls at the feet of the host government. In 2017, the UK helped avert the worst hunger crisis in East Africa with a £700 million donation. This year it’s ten times less. With the UN asking for $1.4 billion, how can the UK response be enough? That cannot be what is meant by Global Britain.

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UK ministers must accelerate delivery of already pledged funds to alleviate East Africa’s hunger crisis, reverse cuts to undermine shock resilience and ensure all funds support local actors best placed to respond quickly . This is what leadership looks like.

Christian Aid makes its contribution. Working with local partners, we bring hope to more than 300,000 people by repairing wells, investing in water purification kits, and distributing animal feed and medicine to keep precious livestock alive. Many are also already helping us save lives by donating what they can to our newly launched appeal to address the hunger crisis in East Africa.

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However, if UK ministers fail to act in this way, they will scoff at the values ​​of the Commonwealth Games. They will damage the legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Games and leave too many vulnerable people in East Africa in a nightmare.

Karimi Kinoti lives in Kenya and is Christian Aid’s Interim Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns Director

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