Sukiya operator aids famine relief in East Africa

Kyodo

The operator of a popular restaurant chain is trying to help alleviate inhabitants in a famine-stricken corner of East Africa.

Earlier this month, several employees of Zensho Co., which operates the Sukiya chain of “gyudon” beef-bowl restaurants, handed out milk packs to starving Somali children at a dust-covered school building in a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.

The camp is home to more than 460,000 refugees and other displaced people forced to flee their homes in Somalia because of famine and civil war.

Before undertaking the humanitarian relief work at the Dadaab refugee camp, Zensho had been involved in a Kenyan fair-trade tea project to assist poverty-stricken tea growers. The Tokyo-based firm then contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Japan after learning that southern Somalia suffered its worst drought in 60 years in 2011.

“As a food service company, we wanted to help the refugees by providing them with food and drinks,” said Yuichiro Hirose, who is in charge of Zensho’s aid work at the Dadaab camp.

In January, Zensho began distributing milk produced by a Kenyan firm, a contact it developed through its fair-trade dealings.

The company is providing milk packs once a week to around 15,000 children aged 3 to 5 at 25 schools inside the camp, and expects to spend about 16 million Kenyan shillings (¥15 million) on distributing a total of 480,000 packs by around August.

It is also considering continuing the relief work in the autumn and beyond.

Komen Haron, an officer at the Dadaab camp, said he hopes for long-term support from Zensho as few foreign private-sector companies have offered aid to the camp.

Mohamud Hassan Khamis, a principal at one of the camp’s schools, said he was pleased as school attendance has increased because more children are coming due to the milk ration.