Famine Relief in East Africa

A woman stands amid tents in a refugee camp near Mogadishu, having walked for several weeks, sleeping at the homes of people on the way. ACT has provided food, water, shelter and sanitation to the new arrivals. Photo courtesy of ACT Alliance

The East African drought continues to deepen, and an estimated 13.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Two years of failed rains have produced the most severe drought in the region since 1950. The failure of harvests and the death of livestock have led to malnutrition rates in excess of 30 percent in most drought-stricken areas, according to the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission.

The availability of food continues to decline in Ethiopia and Somalia, with famine newly declared in several Somali districts. Conditions in parts of Kenya are expected to improve somewhat, if anticipated rains arrive in October. Even with rain, however, pastures in Kenya will not begin to recover until December, and crops will not be ready for harvest until January, February and March.

Because of famine and conflict in Somalia, about 25,000 refugees fled to camps around Dadaab, Kenya, in September alone. More than 444,000 Somali refugees now reside in the Dadaab camps.

Week of Compassion partner Church World Service (CWS) has expanded emergency food distributions through local partners in Kenya's Eastern Province. In Mwingi district, funds from CWS have enabled the Kitui Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya to distribute corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to 1,107 households so far. Many residents who are receiving food are carrying out projects to conserve topsoil and water, such as removing silt from sand dams that will store water during the next rainy season.

With support from WoC and CWS, the Kitui Diocese is also distributing drought-resistant seeds so residents can plant crops including corn, beans, cow peas and sorghum. A total of 1,400 households have received seeds so far. These distributions are necessary because families have eaten their own seed stocks out of hunger. In Kibwezi district, funds have enabled the local partner organization, Community Resource Management, to distribute food to about 100 households as of Sept. 23.

CWS continues its longstanding "Water for Life" program to develop water sources in drought-affected areas of Kenya's Rift Valley and Eastern provinces. Through this program, CWS helped construct 14 sand dams, 11 shallow wells, three borehole wells, one earthen dam and 12 rainwater tanks in 18 Kenyan communities last year. If you are a member of a congregation who has organized a “Wine into Water” fundraising event for Week of Compassion, your gifts have been directed to CWS’ “Water for Life” program—and they are already at work. 

Through our other major implementing agency in the Horn of Africa, the ACT Alliance, we are supporting organizations in providing food, water and other emergency aid in many areas of Ethiopia and Somalia, including Somali refugee camps in Kenya. ACT members active in Ethiopia include Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Lutheran World Federation, International Orthodox Christian Charities and Christian Aid. ACT members active in Somalia include Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Norwegian Church Aid and Lutheran World Federation.

This is a dire situation and will continue to be for the autumn and winter months. Please give generously to our sisters and brothers in need