It has been called the world's most under-reported crisis and the world's worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The famine in the east African countries of Kenya and the South Sudan has quietly killed thousands and thousands of men, women, and children.
In Kenya, 2.7 million people - a number equal to the population of the states of Wyoming and Montana - are at high risk of starvation due to the ongoing drought that has severely affected the ability of families to grow enough food to feed themselves. With too little water - caused by several years of negligible rainfall - livestock have also died in record numbers. Andrew Fuys, a staff member with Church World Service, says in many parts of Kenya, "your livestock is everything - your food, your savings account, your social status."
The crop failure rate has been a staggering 70% -- which has led to exorbitant prices for food, a cost that families (already struggling to make any money from their failing crops) cannot pay. Fuys notes that in certain parts of the country, markets completely collapsed so that no food was available even if families had money to pay. Cash for work programs and emergency food distributions through ACT Alliance partners help families meet their needs. Additionally, communities have begun farming two early maturing/ drought tolerant crops, have begun raising small-breed animals like shoats, and have received training in livestock disease control.
ACT Alliance, in responding to this ongoing crisis, notes that "children, pregnant women, new mothers and the elderly [are] bearing the brunt of the calamity." Moreover, the drought and famine affected areas where the malnutrition rate was already the highest in the country. Improvements in water technologies--such as sand dams and rainwater harvesting--aim to alleviate the emergency situation and provide sustained resources for the community for the future.
Water is life, and where there is not enough water families starve, babies die from diseases caused by poor hygiene, hungry adults are increasingly unable to work, and nations whose economies are hobbled are increasingly unable to help their people as food prices reach unattainable levels. Fuys notes that during the worst of the drought, the price of staples went up more than 30% in many places in the country. Where there was food available, there was often no money and ACT Alliance creatively used cell phone money transfer technology to give families small amounts of money to tide them over, or to help with school fees or health needs.
Your gifts to Week of Compassion have helped make possible these responses. Your continued generosity can help bring life-giving water to our neighbors in Kenya, South Sudan, and around the world. Thank you.