Millions of people are facing famine in the Horn of Africa.
The worst drought in 60 years, combined with skyrocketing food prices, food shortages, and widespread deaths of livestock is fuelling the crisis.
12 million people are already at risk in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The number is expected to rise. The UN describes the situation as the worst food crisis in the world today.
Levels of severe malnutririon are rising. It has been reported that child malnutrition has reached 37% in some parts of north east Kenya and child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition.
Help is urgently needed. CWS partners in the ACT Alliance are providing food, livestock feed and water. Donate now to support their efforts. Download an appeal leaflet to collect more donations. Prayer for the people of the Horn of Africa available here. Download a 10 slide PowerPoint featuring images from acclaimed ACT photographer Paul Jeffrey here.
Thank you for your support and compassion.
Surviving the drought, and preparing for the next one
As you drive east from Nairobi, the Kenyan countryside becomes progressively drier. Long grass becomes yellow and eventually disappears. Bare, reddish soil is all you can see in the barren fields.
This is the East African drought, a vast disaster stretching across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and beyond. Two years with scarcely any rain have withered fields and pastures, putting more than 12 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
In Kaikungu, a rural community of about 6500 people in the Mwingi district, Eastern province, spiky green sisal plants are about the only crop that survives. In normal years, farmers grow plenty of peas, corn, beans and sorghum, but the drought has forced the community to seek food aid.
Nevertheless, local farmers are working hard to become self-sufficient. Since 2007, humanitarian workers from ACT members Church World Service and the Anglican Church of Kenya have been helping the community build structures to capture and store water.
These include a borehole well, two concrete tanks filled from a hilltop water catchment and six "sand dams" which hold water in seasonal streambeds under a thick layer of sand.
If not for these water points, life in the community would be far more difficult. Local people walk anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to fetch water, instead of the grueling, daylong treks people make in other drought-affected communities.
Water has made it possible for some families to grow vegetable gardens and to keep a few livestock long into the drought. Jessica Mutinda, 28, told me that without local water points, her family's four cattle, 10 goats, four sheep and two donkeys would already be dead.
Because of water points, relief workers can report that severe malnutrition is still rare in Kaikungu but the same cannot be said for the rest of Mwingi district.
Recently, 250 local people gathered in Kaikungu to dig silt out of the community's sand dams, restoring their capacity to hold water. To support their work and meet immediate needs, ACT members provided each participant packages of corn, beans, salt and cooking oil. The food will last their families about a week. Weekly distributions are planned for the next five months.
The next rains should come in October, with another six months until crops can be harvested. These seasonal rains cannot come too early for the millions of people in this region who depend on rainwater for subsistence. In Kaikungu, at least, it might not be too late.
22 September, 2011
Situation Update 9/9/11
The United Nations reports that the number of people affected has risen to 12.4 million with 53% or 4 million of Somali’s population in crisis, most in the south. A total of 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished. Drought has been declared in three more areas of Somalia. ACT members are working to avert the worst effects of the famine and drought by providing vital relief supplies, shelter including running the Dadaab camp complex and giving people resources to stay put. They are helping throughout the region, including in Somalia.
Experts predict that the crisis is likely to continue well into next year. So far the United Nations Horn of Africa Drought Appeal is only 59% funded. Much more is needed. The New Zealand government announced new funding for the Horn contributing close to $6 million.
ACT deputy general secretary Rebecca Larson emphasises that the underlying drivers of vulnerability in the region - conflict, poverty and food insecurity – demand that emergency relief be provided in a way that promotes long term sustainability.
“We cannot ignore the contributing impact of climate-induced hazards such as drought. We must continue to urge the international community and especially G20 states to galvanise political support for predictable sources of climate finance, especially in the Horn of Africa.”
Larson is firm on the fact that the region will continue to remain unstable as long as the Somalia conflict continues. No peaceful solution appears to be in sight for Somalia as long as armed groups in south and central Somalia become increasingly radicalised and the transitional government is weakened by internal power struggles.
“This is a crisis with severe impact on the local communities but which also crosses borders, with national, regional and international implications. We understand that this crisis will be long term and has already begun spreading,” Larson says.
Eye witness accounts
CWS partner, Christian Aid, has posted the following report from staff in the region.
“As you travel in northern Kenya and into southern Ethiopia, you'll find the roads are littered with animal carcasses. Visit local households and you'll see vulnerable families that are starving and that have, in most cases, gone without food for days on end.
In places where aid has yet to reach, you'll find elderly relatives left behind, dying because they are too frail to travel with their families to find food and water.
You'll see children who have dropped out of school to help their families search for something to eat and drink. This can take days, with people walking almost 50 kilometres and sometimes further. People are so desperate that it's not unusual to come across children begging for water on the roadside as you're driving around. That gives you some idea of the scale of the problem here.
The situation is grim, even according to humanitarian standards, but you have to provide assistance the best way you can to save lives.”
A Prayer for the Horn of Africa
Loving and compassionate God,
We ask you to hold the people of the Horn of Africa in your care
Be with them in their daily search for food,
Feed them with what they need to live,
Take special care of the young, the elderly and the nursing mothers
Enable them to live beyond tomorrow to find sustenance, despite the extreme drought and long journeys that many have made.
R: Lord, hear our prayer for help in this time of great need.
God of mercy and healing,
Awaken us to the suffering of the people of the Horn of Africa, of Somalia, of Ethiopia and Kenya.
Open our hearts to their cry for help,
Strengthen our resolve to share our resources with them to meet their desperate needs.
Guide and protect those who are working alongside the people in difficult circumstances to bring food to the hungry, water to the thirsty and shelter to the refugee.
Let generosity and compassion fill our hearts as we lift the people of Africa before you in our prayers.
R: Lord, hear our prayer and come to our assistance.
In Jesus’ Name we pray