I am currently in eastern DRC visiting our work among refugee returnee communities. I had an opportunity to meet with a milling group that we helped establish in 2008 with funding from BPRM*: FH provided this group with a mill and some basic tools, along with training in mill maintenance, business skills, etc.  During this same year of funding, we supported the start-up of other income generating groups, including sewing, fishing, bread-making and soap-making.


Members of milling group

I visited with these groups in 2009 when they were just starting up, and to be honest, I was not too optimistic that they would continue after FH’s support ended. The main challenge was that these communities had just returned from living for years in refugee camps in neighboring countries where all their needs were provided, only to have to return to homes that were destroyed in the war – with very few resources.  I recall many of the groups asking why FH was not just providing them with the food they needed to survive, as the benefits of income generation schemes would not be felt for many months. I remember my colleague, Sara, telling them that we had very little money and were hoping that this small investment would multiply and be fruitful, if they were willing to take the initiative to see that happen.

Anyway, I was very pleased to meet with a few members of one of the milling groups we supported in 2008/09 and to see that they are indeed thriving – praise God! Here is a summary of the situation:

There are 20 group members (12 women and 8 men) living in Tabac Village, Kalemie Territory, Katanga Province, Eastern DRC. These families were repatriated to Tabac from refugee camps in neighboring countries in 2007/08. They had no source of income and were surviving on packages received from the UN and other humanitarian assistance. In late 2008, with funds received from BPRM, FH supplied them with a mill for grinding maize and cassava, other supplies such as fuel, and both technical and business training.

The mill serves Tabac and surrounding communities. They receive 800 francs ($US 0.90) per 10kg of flour, and today their monthly income can be as high as 200,000 francs ($US 220), of which 100,000 is set aside for repairs and the salary of the miller who was hired to grind the flour.  About 50,000 is reinvested, and the remaining 50,000 is divided among the group members to use for personal household needs.

They see the greatest benefit that has been reaped is the diversification of their livelihood. With the income from the mill, they have been able to purchase small livestock (goats and chickens), they are jointly cultivating land with cash crops (cassava and palm trees for making oil), and they hope to diversify further as the income continues to grow.

It really was encouraging to see how a small investment on FH’s part can reap such lasting effects, especially when the community are fully engaged and take full ownership of their own development.


Miller grinding flour

Leena Samuel, Emergency Response Unit, Food for the Hungry.

* PRM: US Government’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration



Ato Abuta Kotalo, age 35, is struggling to feed his family of eight.  Even in normal times, Ato Abuta struggles daily to provide for his family, and the drought has only worsened their vulnerability.  In order to survive, Ato Abuta sold his only source of livelihood, two sheep, in order to purchase food for his family.  He is left with no assets, and in order to make ends meet, he and his wife spend several hours weeding and hoeing on their neighbors’ farms, as well as travel long distance for day labor jobs, for a small source of income.

Ato Abuta says, “My little children cry out at night because they go hungry to bed…the little ones are quite ill due to their hunger.  Currently, I am only able to feed my little children by borrowing money from neighbors to purchase food.  I will have to pay them back with 10% interest after my harvest.”

Food for the Hungry is reaching out to the families of both Ato Chakeso and Ato Abuta, as well as the other families identified in Shashego as needing urgent food assistance.  In the coming weeks, FH will be providing these families with a food package (including maize, haricot beans, supplementary food (for children under five and pregnant and lactating women), and cooking oil) to help get them through this challenging period.  Food for the Hungry is providing food packages for 91,810 individuals in drought affected communities throughout Ethiopia through the generous support of USAID and Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB).  An additional $122,000 is needed to sustain this food distribution program, which is expected to last through the end of the year.

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.

By Peter Howard, Director of Emergency Response

In Sendai and it’s hard to believe the destruction.  Today many thoughts and memories of the 2004 Asian tsunami came back to me as I traveled around Ishinomaki and talked with those affected by the tsunami.

One couple I spoke with had received help from JIFH in the form of food and volunteer labor.  I visited with them while they were hard at work cleaning out mud from their home.  It was tough to watch them sort through their home and memories, many of which were caked in mud and the rest lost to the sea.   When the earthquake struck and the tsunami warning signals went off they were at home, but quickly left their home on foot and ran for the hills away from the sea.  In the following 20-25 minutes they made it to high ground but sadly lost friends and family who were unable to get away in time from the wall of water and debris.  The wife was quite eager to share her experience, complete with details of watching the wall of water come her way.  Soon the husband, who was a bit more reticent, chimed in with hand motions and more details.  As the JIFH staff made clear, especially in these more northern and rural areas, elderly Japanese rarely open up about their thoughts or emotions and instead soldier on with great endurance.  As the conversation ended the JIFH volunteer felt it appropriate to ask me to pray and so I felt it an honor to ask God’s presence, peace and help on this older couple trying to rebuild a life among the rubble.

Later in the day, with several JIFH staff, we were able to bring some food to a shelter where we visited with one of the women who lives in a relatively small area with 18 other families.  She told of feeling the earthquake and then hearing the tsunami warnings go off.  Thankfully, she said that everyone in her village was able to escape prior to the tsunami coming in.  But the destruction from the wave left their village in rubble.  It was several weeks before she was able to return and see firsthand what she and her family lost.  She is thankful but now must contend with crowded and hot conditions with the 18 other families.  She has put her name in a lottery for temporary shelter but does not know how long it will take. In the meantime they make do with one fan and one refrigerator for all the people in the shelter.  There was no hint of complaint, but rather a resolve to endure and rebuild.

An update from Director of Emergency Response Peter Howard, who was in Japan last week and met with our partner organization Friends with the Voiceless International (FVI).

Pastor Yoshio explaining how their church is reaching out in their community.

Today while traveling with Friends with the Voiceless I met Yoshia and Toyomi Sanga of Grace Garden Chapel.  It was truly encouraging to meet two leaders who are pouring themselves out on behalf of those displaced by the nuclear fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant.  With a heart of compassion matched by action, Yoshio shared how they have been called to minister among the displaced people living at the Fukushima Convention Center shelter.  Many of these people are from Tomioka, a town that is currently empty because it is located two kilometers from the damaged nuclear plant.

I was able to visit with the people of Grace Garden Chapel in Fukushima prefecture and hear how their pastor asked each church member to research the earthquake and nuclear fallout needs of their communities.  Yoshia Sanga (the senior pastor’s wife and a pastor and mobilizer herself) told me about the childcare, young mother care, and starter packages they are organizing as a church.  It began when they visited the shelter, which was housing over 2,500 people, and they saw some children in a corner without anything to engage their attention.  Yoshia soon mobilized volunteers from her church and elsewhere to begin organizing playtime, study and music for the children.  This soon got the attention of the government, which provided a bigger space for the volunteers to create these child friendly spaces.  More importantly it got the attention of the children and parents as the numbers grew, and so did the gratitude.  One woman shared how her nine-year-old daughter could not sleep through the night, but after she began joining in the activities she was soon sleeping through the night.  The calming effect on children brought greater peace not only to young mothers but also to grandparents and neighbors who are all doing the best they can, living close together in the shelters.  Additionally, Yoshia started the Young Mothers Support center through which she tries to bless young mothers by helping to provide childcare for babies so mothers can get some time alone to run errands or to be with friends.  As part of this, Yoshio was able to get a beautician friend to come and cut hair at the shelter and enlisted Starbucks to come and serve free coffee.   Finally, through these relationships Yoshio and her church and team of volunteers have begun compiling and distributing “Life Starter Packages” to families in need, which allow those families who are moving into temporary housing to start a kitchen with supplies like bowls, plates, mixers, refrigerators, etc.

In the course of such intense relational ministry, Yoshio and her team are regularly asked ‘why are you here?”  It is especially unique because she and her husband are not from the area and when many or most people who could leave did so, they stayed.  This presence is having a significant impact.  Young mothers, grandparents and others continue to express gratitude for how their children are adjusting better and sleeping at night without nightmares because of the child centers.  The elderly find relief through simple things like massages that relieve stress.  Even the Mayor has taken notice and expressed deep gratitude for the ministry and hope-filled support of Yoshio and her team of volunteers through Grace Garden Chapel.

I asked what the impact was on the church members and was not surprised to hear how it has bound them together as a ministry.  People are joining together to serve while others are meeting regularly to pray and intercede for God’s mercy.  But the hours, the stress and weight of such ministry does take its toll.  Please pray for the leadership and parishioners of Grace Garden Chapel.  Pray that God and others in the body of Christ minister to their needs even as they pour themselves out on behalf of others.  They have a vision that the Christian church can truly meet physical and spiritual needs as it “stays behind” and ministers among those living with the real and imagined dangers of nuclear radiation.

FH partner Friends with the Voiceless International (FVI) is currently responding to the needs of Fukushima residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami.  Despite the threat of radiation from the nearby nuclear reactor, local pastors and congregations have refused to abandon residents in the area and continue to reach out with food, supplies, and comfort.

Miyuki Numata, FH Canada’s Director of International Programs, returned from Japan a few weeks ago where she connected with FVI in Fukushima.  She noted how the local church is reaching out to people overlooked in larger relief efforts.  Prior to the disaster churches did not have a very visible presence in the local community due to the small number of Christians, but now people recognize that churches are providing essential supplies and are often shocked that the help is free.  Many recipients are unable or unwilling to evacuate because they are elderly, handicapped, or bedridden, or they have farms with animals they do not want to abandon.

Soohwan Park, on staff with Regent College Marketplace Institute and a former FH Director of Global HR, recently met with FVI staff and local church leaders in Japan and gave the following updates:

Tsunami recovery work is unique comparing to other natural disaster relief work like flood or earthquake because everything is washed away by powerful waves in a matter of minutes. When tsunami hit in South Asia in 2004, the cleanup and recovery work began rapidly in villages and coastal towns in Thailand but the spiritual and mental recovery was a slow and silent battle. Local fishing villages gradually picked themselves up again because fishermen knew what it meant to take risks as they had been living all their lives depending on water and boats, if they were able to overcome the fear of water again.

What Fukushima is experiencing now is totally different because of the radiation from the broken nuclear plants after the massive tsunami. Among those survived, many people (including farmers) have evacuated temporarily and they are now considering whether or not to leave their home towns for good. Those staying in their local communities suddenly found themselves too busy caring for victims and evacuees to face the unknown future ahead of them. Land recovery from contamination by radiation, evacuation and resettlement of people. That’s what caught my attention from when the early stage of radiation alert started coming out. I started praying with Jeremiah 29 for rebuilding local communities in and around Fukushima as I prepared for my trip out from Vancouver…

…Our focus of action plan immediately became the recovery of local economy and how to protect local farmers and other small businesses as Fukushima’s economy is said to be frozen already and it will only go down due to the radiation and prolonged solutions about the nuclear plants. As we were talking with the pastor and his wife, it became obvious to all of us that expanding relief action (distribution of handouts) would only keep the local economy inactive and keep the evacuees passive. We realized that we should find ways to turn that trajectory as quickly as possible and start building actions toward building a long term future.

According to the U.N’s World Food Programme, more than five million people across the Horn of Africa are facing a food shortage caused by severe drought, high food prices and conflict.  The drought was brought on by failed rains at the end of 2010, resulting in substantial harvest failure for many communities, as well as deteriorating pasture conditions and livestock losses.  The current situation is only compounding the effect of the global food price crisis and regional drought of 2007-2009, which most affected communities are still recovering from.

Since December 2008, with funding received from USAID-OFDA, and in partnership with four other NGOs, Food for the Hungry has been responding to the needs of pastoralist communities in northern Kenya affected by the global food price crisis.  In the two years since its launch, the program has experienced many successes.  One success is detailed in the story below written by FH’s field staff in Kenya.

Work in progress at a shallow well.

Kinna is a small town with a population of about 12,000 people.

Today, residents show excitement and joy on their faces. But why, you may ask? It is because of a FH Kenya project, funded by USAID/OFDA Arid and Marginal Lands Recovery Consortium (ARC). This project has positively touched their lives through the protection of shallow wells, which are used as water reservoirs during droughts. Even when earth water pans and other sources of water dry up, these wells remain and save their livestock. The newer and better water troughs planned by FH Kenya signify cleaner water for their livestock, reduced workload for the owners, and the end of re-constructing troughs each morning before livestock start to drink at the wells.

Hassan Halakhe Guracha, one of the shallow well beneficiary comments, “I first learnt of FH Kenya through a community meeting in July 2010. Here Mr. Guyo Tuke, the Program Manager for FH, and two other officers introduced the organization to the community and shared with the public what it does and plans to do in our community: shallow well rehabilitation and protection, de-silting of earth water pans, development of livestock markets and training our livestock market management committees members.”

Livestock drink at a new trough.

At the beginning of the project, FH Kenya had planned to rehabilitate four shallow wells. However, seven were rehabilitated due to cost-sharing with the Kinna community. Under this arrangement, the shallow well owners brought in locally available materials such as sand and gravel, while FH Kenya provided hardware materials such as ordinary and waterproof cement, metal pipes and timber. FH Kenya also paid ten vulnerable beneficiaries from the community to work for twenty days.  Rehabilitation and protection involved cleaning the surroundings of the wells, widening the circumference to increase the volume of water available and plastering the sides with cement. The plastered sides were raised to prevent contamination of the wells by wild animals like monkeys.

The rehabilitated shallow wells have several benefits. These include: ease of fetching/collecting cleaner water, reduced demand on human labour, durability of troughs and hence reduced destruction by wild animals. As Hassan explains, “Ever since 1972 when the earliest wells were dug in the area, herders have to be at the site at least two hours before livestock could drink from the wells. During that time they mould the troughs afresh each morning using mud. Over the years we approached many governmental and non-governmental organizations including the Constituency Development Committee and Kenya Wildlife Service, but without any success. “

Hassan goes on to say that, “FH Kenya addressed an area that was very critical for the residents of Kinna. This has improved the quality and quantity of water available for livestock and human consumption; it has acted on the community’s highly prioritized needs.”