Drought in East Africa the Worst in Decades

After walking up to 1000km to escape conflict and drought, exhausted new arrivals pile their belongings and wait in queue to register at the ACT-run Dadaab camp in north Kenya. They will then have to find somewhere to settle for the night. Photo: ACT/LWF/Lokiru MatendoThis year marks the driest period in the Eastern Horn of Africa region since 1995, with the lowest level of rainfall in more than 50 years. As a result, food security -- the access and availability to food -- has deteriorated for most households in all arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia as well as other countries in the region. In a word, the situation has become a crisis. Crops have failed, large numbers of livestock needed for survival have perished, and local food prices have increased substantially. 

 
Earlier this week, the United Nations declared that famine exists in two areas of southern Somalia, southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. (Famine is declared when acute rates of malnutrition exist among children, exceeding 30 percent; when more than two persons per 10,000 die daily; and when people are not able to access and sufficiently utilize food and other basics.) In all, more than 10 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought. In Somalia, some 3.7 million people are now facing a crisis, while in Kenya the total number of those estimated to be affected is up to 3.5 million.
 
Among the characteristics of this crisis: Deepening food insecurity in pastoral areas and in urban poor settings; the rate of acute malnutrition among children in these areas is steadily increasing; and Kenya is experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees fleeing drought conditions from Somalia.
 
Thus, Week of Compassion is responding through our partners Church World Service (CWS) and the ACT Alliance. Both agencies are focusing work on both immediate relief and longer-term food security/nutrition and water initiatives. Our response is focused in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
 
In Kenya, CWS-implemented work is focused on the Mwingi and Kibwezi areas and will include immediate relief work (for five months) involving provision of family food packages, Unimix nutritional supplement for children under the age of five and water tinkering. In the longer-term, CWS will initiate food security/nutrition/livelihoods efforts and permanent water initiatives that are part of our already-existing disaster risk reduction initiatives in Kenya.
 
ACT Alliance member organizations have determined that Somalia will be the largest area of focus for the overall ACT response in terms of the amount of assistance, because Somalia is a country "where little other than non-governmental organizational (NGO) support will exist and the situation of people there is the most dire," said Donna Derr, who heads CWS's development and humanitarian assistance program. CWS will only be directly responding in Kenya, she said, but it is the agency's hope "to generate enough support so that we can contribute to the efforts of ACT members responding in Somalia and Ethiopia as well."
 
Our efforts in Somalia are focused on contributing to the work by fellow members of the ACT Alliance: Lutheran World Federation and Norwegian Church Aid. Our work in Ethiopia is focused on response efforts by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Commission, a long-time partner of CWS.
 
This situation is extremely serious and life-threatening. For Week of Compassion to support this much needed relief effort, we call upon your courageous compassion. To donate, click here. Thank you in advance for your prayers, concern and generosity.
 
For more stories on the current situation in East Africa, visit: