Written By Alex Mwuara
It was imminent. The periods between droughts in east Africa had been growing shorter and shorter. The rains have failed, again, barely two years since the skies dried up.Just as the region, and indeed the world, was celebrating the birth of a new nation, South Sudan, the deadly monster that is drought and famine was making its way around the Horn of Africa. And this time around, it is the worst in 60 years. Kenya’s Meteorological Department says that the last decade, since 1998, has witnessed more rainfall deficiencies over most of the arid and semi-arid regions, than enhanced rainfall occurrences.
The UN has declared a famine in two areas of Somalia as the prolonged drought continues to cause severe food shortages in the Horn. Its food agency, the WFP, estimates that more than a third of Somalia’s population is suffering hunger. Many Somalis, already hardened by decades of civil war and lack of food, are fleeing into neighboring Kenya hoping for a little food to save their children.
Communities in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya are also feeling the pinch of empty food stores.
According to a USAID fact sheet, it’s estimated that approximately 11.5 million people will require urgent humanitarian assistance; 3.5 million in Kenya, and 4.5million in Ethiopia. 3.2 million will urgently need assistance in Somalia. More than 2.2million are displaced in the lawless state.
FH has ongoing projects in parts of Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. FH has been working in Marsabit [Northern Kenya] for over 26 years currently implementing programs in multiple sectors. Marsabit recorded the second highest Global Acute Malnutrion [GAM] rates at 27.7% by the end of June. With little or no rainfall expected the situation remains dire. Women and children will be most affected. With time, the men will also feel the heat as their livestock, their main economic activity, succumb due to lack of water and pasture. Entire households and communities are at risk; conflict is looming due to the scramble for scarce resources. The situation in Ethiopia is equally devastating. FH operates in three of the affected Woredas [an administrative division run by a local government] and is currently developing a plan to address those Woredas i.e Zeway, Sheshigo and Sirba Abay. According to John Connelly, FH Ethiopia Country Director, a complex scenario of price spikes have emerged, putting the vulnerable at even greater risk.
This crisis presents another opportunity for FH to share the love of Christ through practical initiatives like General Food Distributions, Supplementary Feeding Programmes, Oral Therapeutic Programmes, among others. We can go heavy on facts and stats at a time like this but the reality is long term solutions need to be found and implemented since we have an idea of the possible causes of the recurrent problem. All hope is not lost, we have the solutions.
FH Kenya through the Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Consortium [ARC] is working with USAID and other donors to scale up operations in Northern Kenya. The ARC programme strategy is two fold: immediate action to mitigate the effects of the food crisis and longer term, sustainable activities that both strengthen and diversify livelihoods, strengthening markets, access to credit and economic communities. One newspaper report said that pastoralists in some areas have sold goats for as little as $1.10 – one -fortieth the usual price. A five-month [Jan-May] price analysis by FH Kenya shows there was $1.3 million in economic activity in markets that FH Kenya supports. FH has helped the communities it works in, generate income rather than wait for food donations. What if this approach was translated across the Northern region? What if the government followed through with its plan to improve infrastructure, strengthen markets and promote economic development in the Northern region? Same goes for Ethiopia.
“This food crisis in Eastern Africa is another startling example of why international partners need to put food first. Agriculture is one-third of GDP and three-quarters of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. When a crisis like this hits, millions of people suffer. Agriculture is more vulnerable to climate change than any other sector. We need a major international effort to address this challenge now. Climate-smart agriculture, including scaled-up research on drought resistant seeds, and cross-border strategies for drought risk reduction are essential over the medium and long term.” Robert Zoellick, President, World Bank.
We continue to pray that God will provide for the needs of millions of people affected directly and indirectly by the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.