Baby Adey’s mother must have felt desperate as she lay sick and bedridden in her home in Garissa—an area of Northeastern Kenya badly affected by the Horn of Africa drought. But as a mother, her own illness was surely not as frightening as her child’s.
Our health workers in Garissa—where one in three infants is underweight—discovered Adey and her mother during a visit to their home. They were too sick to travel, so we went to them. Adey’s father told us his wife hadn’t been able to breastfeed because she had no milk. Six-month-old Adey appeared tiny, weak and lethargic.
The average 6-month-old baby girl in the U.S. weighs 16 lbs. Adey weighed just 4 lbs. 6 oz.—less than most newborns. She was malnourished, dehydrated and had an upper respiratory infection.
World Concern staff transported Adey and her mother to the hospital, where the baby received antibiotics, fluids and emergency nutrition. Her mom, who was also malnourished, was treated for her illness and given nutritionally fortified porridge.
Three weeks later, a much happier, healthier baby Adey was discharged from the hospital weighing 8 lbs. 2 oz.—almost doubling her weight.
Receiving Baby Adey’s story in my inbox reminded me that the crisis in the Horn of Africa is not over. When the U.N. declared parts of Somalia were no longer experiencing famine conditions (in which 30% of children are acutely malnourished and 2 adult or 4 child deaths per 10,000 occur each day), the food crisis disappeared from the headlines. But it’s not over.
At the time of the UN declaration, there were still 9 million people in need of aid in the Horn of Africa. Baby Adey and her family were among them.
What’s in the news today? Lindsey Lohan is going to jail and Kim Kardashian is getting divorced. I guess these things are considered news…
Unfortunately, there’s less and less coverage of the ongoing famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. Yet the UN estimates 750,000 lives are at risk, and millions are still hungry. Most of the recent articles seem to focus on the hopelessness of Somalia, where the greatest number of people are suffering.
But amidst the news articles about the dangers and challenges faced by aid organizations trying to reach these people, we’ve been blessed with some excellent exposure in the New York Times today and last week. Our innovative use of vouchers was highlighted in a column called “Fixes,” which looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.
Of all the ways to have our work recognized, we’re most appreciative when the focus is on the solution. If you’re a supporter of World Concern, you are part of that solution. Instead of wringing our hands in despair, together, we’re doing something. It feels good, doesn’t it?
In the past few months, we’ve reached more than 30,000 people with food vouchers. Families are able to purchase specific food items (beans, rice, oil, salt and sugar) – enough to last them several weeks. The system supports the local economy and helps ensure aid ends up in the hands of those who need it most.
There are other creative solutions being implemented. In drought-affected communities, we’re using existing resources to bring clean water to people. We’re enlisting the support and input of community members to find solutions, such as fixing broken wells, de-silting aging water pans and adding pumps to increase the capacity of wells. In one Kenyan community along the border that hosts refugees fleeing Somalia, the community paid for half the repairs. They will get their investment back if they take care of the well. You can bet their newly appointed water committee is doing just that!
This is not to say our staff isn’t facing the same challenges many aid organizations are facing in the Horn of Africa, including insecurity and conflict, limited access and resources, and even … mud (pictured here). But despite these challenges, we’re forging ahead – because people need help.
Within a week of a recent attack on the town of Dhobley, Somalia, we were back, distributing vouchers so the neediest families could purchase food and emergency supplies. Recent rains in the area have prevented easy travel to the towns where we’re helping. There have been many long hours spent stuck in mud puddles, or coming up against water-covered roadways.
We know it is only because of God’s grace that we’ve been able to help in areas with limited access. We’re praying that more help reaches the people of Somalia soon. Please join us in praying for more solutions to this complex crisis.
Through our Global Gift Guide, and with the help of our donors, we’ve given goats to needy children and families for years – enabling them to have nutritious milk, and earn an income. But until today, we’ve always been on the giving end of things …
Our team that is responding to the drought in Northeastern Kenya and Somalia visited a town called Amuma, about five miles from the Somali border where we are building water projects. The town has no water source, so we are trucking water in to meet the immediate need. But with hopes of rain coming soon, we are repairing and improving a large water pan, which will be filled by the rain and sustain the community for up to four months.
The team was there today to select the contractor from the community that will do this work. Rather than bringing workers in from the outside, we’re involving the community to make the decision. We see this as their project, and therefore engage them in the process. The team met with the chief, elders and counselor (local politician), then with a representation of the community. Sealed quotes were opened in their presence (a very transparent process), and all parties signed an agreement that they would be a part of the process and were happy with what was happening.
After visiting the site of the project, the community members were so happy, they presented the World Concern staff with a gift – a goat!
They said, “Not since independence (1963), has any organization ever been so consistent and transparent” with them. They were so happy we are working with them, coming in early to ask questions and learn from them, finding ways to keep the work in the community and allowing them to participate and to make decisions – all in an honest and transparent way.
The team was truly humbled and honored to receive such an expression of gratitude from the community of Amuma.
World Concern staff members are safe after an attack on the Somali border town of Dhobley by the militant group al-Shabaab. In the early morning hours of Sept. 30, al-Shabaab attacked the town where World Concern, along with partners Medical Teams International (MTI) and AFREC, have been providing aid to families affected by the famine and insecurity in Somalia.
We’re grateful that no staff members or partners were in Dhobley at the time of the attacks, but our hearts are broken over this deadly attack on a town that is already suffering so much. Initial reports indicate that 44 Somali military members were injured and 30 were killed in the attack. Two civilians were also killed and two others injured, including a young girl. There are reports of seven al-Shabaab members being killed in the fighting.
Dhobley is a place where many families traveling from all over southern Somalia can get food, water and rest on their long journey to the refugee camps in Kenya. Despite daily security issues, World Concern has been able to feed 13,000 people with two-week rations of beans, rice, oil, sugar and salt, and provide emergency supplies such as blankets, water jugs, mosquito nets and more to another 1,300 families.
World Concern and MTI staff will continue to assist in the response just across the border in Liboi, Kenya. As soon as it is safe to return to Dhobley, World Concern will resume activities there, as we’re one of the few international organizations able to work in the area.
Insecurity has been a major challenge for humanitarian organizations to reach people affected by the famine. “We could double or triple our food distribution with better access,” said Deputy Director of Disaster Response Chris Sheach. “Every day we’re not able to get into Dhobley represents 2,500 people who don’t receive help,” he said.
One way World Concern is working around these challenges is by using vouchers, which are redeemed for food and emergency supplies at local merchants. We then reimburse merchants through direct cash transfers. This system supports the local economy, builds relationships with community leaders, and ensures food ends up in the hands of those who need it most.
Please pray for the families affected by the attack this morning and that further violence will not hinder our ability to reach people in desperate need.
When Jason Kim heard about the 13 million people affected by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, he felt compelled to do something to help. Knowing he could do more with the support of others, he joined forces with some friends and organized a fundraiser. The event, called iFed, was held this past Sunday, Sept. 25 at Phil Smart Mercedes-Benz in Seattle’s SODO district.
Jason and a group of volunteers raised $4,600 to help with World Concern’s famine response – enough to feed nearly 500 people for an entire month.
“People – no matter where they are – they’re human beings. They’re looking for a cup of clean water,” said Jason. “There’s a calling on us as fellow human beings to do something. My parents are missionaries, I work for an employer who does a lot, I have generous friends … I am surrounded by people like this, and I am able and capable to do something.”
Jason works at the Mercedes dealership, and when he approached his employer about hosting the event, he immediately agreed. Potential supporters were invited via Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth to come down, have their car pampered in an exclusive Mercedes car wash, enjoy a barbeque lunch, and watch the Seahawks game on giant screen TVs throughout the venue – all for a donation. They also sold T-shirts that said “iFed Africa” at the event.
Shannon Olsen is a friend of Jason’s and helped plan the fundraiser. She admits it was a ton of hard work, but well worth the effort to know lives will be saved because of it.
“It’s so fun to see your friends support something like this,” said Shannon. “Really, it comes down to the fact that most people do care, but they don’t know what to do. When you know someone who is doing something, it’s easy to jump in. In the end, it was great to see the group come together and how a small amount of money can bring fresh water and food to help people.”
Shannon was inspired to help raise funds after seeing World Concern’s photographs of people suffering in Somalia and Kenya. “I saw all the dead animals in the road and people walking over them. I imagined the smell, and how those people must be feeling so hopeless. It’s important to call attention to the fact that this is not just something else going on in Africa. This crisis is unique,” she said.
For both Jason and Shannon, the iFed fundraiser was just the beginning. They plan to continue raising awareness and funds to help.
“I can’t just dust my hands off and feel I’ve done my thing. It’s ongoing. We still need to keep going,” said Shannon. “I hope people think, ‘Shannon’s really busy and she did it. Priorities can be moved around and I could do something too.’ Hopefully people will catch on.”
If you’re inspired to tap your network and make an even greater impact on the lives of those suffering in Somalia and Kenya, why not start your own fundraiser? We’ve got a simple set up. Check out http://www.firstgiving.com/worldconcern/famine and start your personal fundraiser today!
Maria Evans said she and her friends felt compelled to do something to help people suffering in the Horn of Africa after hearing about the famine at church last month.
“It touched my heart when I saw those slides,” recalled Maria, who attends Community Bible Fellowship in Lynnwood, Wash. “Here we are enjoying this luxury, and we complain so much. At least we have water. It’s been a wake-up call for everybody.”
The church members decided to hold a yard sale to raise funds for World Concern’s famine response. Knowing that every dollar would help bring food, water and emergency supplies to families affected by the drought, they got right to work gathering donations of household items for the sale.
After promoting their event on Craigslist and Facebook, more than 100 shoppers showed up for the event, which was held Aug. 26-28 on the church lawn.
“Friends and people from other churches came and bought stuff. Some gave an extra $20 cash donation,” said Maria.
The church raised more than $1,400 from the sale. “We feel good, knowing it will help a lot,” she said.
Maria said the church members had so much fun organizing donations, tagging items the night before, and hosting the event, because they knew it would ultimately help desperate families in the drought. “We didn’t even get tired!” she said. “We enjoyed every minute of it.”
There is water in Damajale, Kenya today, bringing relief and smiles to the faces of thirsty children and families.
About a week ago, the only deep well in this village along the Kenya-Somalia border failed. The pump, 150 meters underground, was working round the clock and finally quit. Watch the CNN iReport here.
Damajale is one of many host communities that has seen a massive influx of refugees. In the past month, an additional 2,000 to 3,000 people have arrived here, having walked for days – even weeks – in search of food and water.
Fatuma, a mother of eight, was brought to tears when she realized there was no water. She had walked 30 kilometers through the night to Damajale to find only empty jerrycans stacked around the well.
“I struggle to stand here now, because I am so thirsty,” Fatuma said. “I don’t know when I will come back to my home. I may die on the way.”
World Concern is working in outlying host villages like this to get water and food to people there. Repairing and increasing the capacity of existing wells is one way we’re doing that.
In Damajale, we were able to get a new pump flown in, and engineers worked through the night to fix the well.
Today, water is flowing from the well.
To those who have donated to the famine response, the chairman of the elders of Damajale says, “You have come and rescued us. May God bless you.”
Last week we said goodbye to our Emergency Coordinator Tracy Stover as she boarded a plane for Dadaab, Kenya, where hundreds of thousands of refugees are in need of food and water. Watching her heavily loaded backpack disappear into the crowd at Sea-Tac airport, I found myself wondering, can one person really make a difference?
Tracy will be serving in the midst of the worst crisis facing the world today. The U.N. estimates 12.4 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Half a million children are at risk of death from famine.
Figures like this cause us to wonder if even thousands of aid workers and millions of dollars can make a difference.
But Tracy is not going alone. She and the rest of the World Concern team working in the Horn of Africa have the support of donors. Like an invisible, potent force, those who are giving to this cause are making it possible for aid workers to save lives.
Can one person make a difference?
Anyone whose heart was touched by the tragic passing of 9-year-old Rachel Beckwith knows the answer is yes. Rachel’s legacy will live on for decades as entire villages will have clean water for generations to come because of her selfless act.
You can make a difference too. And you don’t have to do it alone. Most people will help if they are simply asked. Here are a few ways you could do that:
Host a dinner for friends. Ask each person to bring a potluck dish to share. Present some information about the famine in the Horn of Africa. Include stories of people who are hungry and in need. Ask everyone to consider donating whatever they would have spent on a nice dinner out to help families survive this disaster.
Sixty dollars can provide food and water for a family for a month. Think about that: the cost of one meal in a restaurant can keep five people alive for an entire month.
Hold a garage sale or rummage sale. Round up some friends at your church and ask members to donate unused clothing and household items for a charity sale. Donate the proceeds to help in the famine relief.
You can also dedicate a birthday, anniversary or even a day’s work to the cause. World Concern partner One Day’s Wages is raising funds to support the famine response. Check out their personal fundraising tools and think about what you could do to create your own fundraiser.
Our team pulled out of Dadaab shortly after breakfast, on the road to Somalia. It’s a dry, dusty road, with thorny bush on either side. The road itself is badly rutted, so weave along the ditch, following two tire tracks in the sand. Occasionally, we jump up on the road and dip down the embankment to the other side, continuing the weaving through acacias, sand flying in little rooster tails behind us.
Following closely is our security escort, a good natured sergeant in the Administration Police, and three kids so green they barely shave. They get sent to the border fresh out of school, to work them in for a few years. Now, they chase behind us through the thorny wasteland.
The only sign of life are the dik-diks, meercats, and the birds. The birds are also a sign of death. The road is littered with cattle carcasses, at least one every kilometer, and the Marabou storks gather around them. I have never seen so many Marabou storks before. They are the undertakers of the animal kingdom, overdressed in their black coats, strutting awkwardly around, and omnipresent at a funeral. As we pull into Liboi, I notice the storks are bigger than the goats, or even a small child. And they are everywhere.
While we take some tea in Liboi, it starts to rain. Irony. Rain in a drought. But this isn’t really rain. I only notice it on my specs. It’s such a fine drizzle, my clothes don’t get wet, and the ground is no less dusty.
We head on, through a few checkpoints, and we are there. It comes as a bit of surprise, really. Our escort actually had to pull us over, so we didn’t cross the line. The Somalia border is signified by a stone. “That tree is Somali,” said our guide, “and this tree is a Kenyan.” As we waited for our vehicle from Somalia, we walked past the stone and looked around.
This was it. I was in Somalia. There were bullets in some of the trees, a battle had been fought here. One of the soldiers handed me a shell. “Your souvenir,” he said.
I returned to Liboi for a few hours, while I waited for the team in Somalia. At the borehole, warthogs jostled with goats for water. They told me even giraffes and gazelles came into town to get water now. “What about the lions?” I asked. There are about 20 out there, was the response, but they haven’t come into town. Later I met a refugee, who had seen a man killed by a lion attack in his travels.
I visited the school. It was Saturday, but the boarding students were still there, sleeping through the heat in their dorms with insufficient mattresses, hanging their laundry to dry from the broken panes of glass in the windows. Three hundred boys aged 12 and up, their parents nomadic, trying to finish primary school. They have 2 toilets, neither has a door. During the week the school swells to 800, and with their pipes broken, they can’t afford the water required for the kids to wash their hands before meals.
In a small hotel, I found 100 refugees sleeping in the carport. They were waiting for evening to continue their journey. My guide told me to take their picture – that they said it was okay. The women covered their faces and looked away. They asked if I had any food. I didn’t – not for 100 people – and I felt like an idiot. The children all have watery diarrhea. I urge them, when they get to the camp, to take all their children to the clinic. “They will help you in Dadaab,” I said. I hope I’m right. I take the pictures, get in the car, and drive off. This is the part I hate.
When I met the team, they seemed a bit stunned. “It’s different over there. The ratio of soldiers to civilians is 4:1. Everyone has a gun.” And yet, the situation is really the same. Not enough food, not enough water, and not enough health care. They visited a hospital with most of the equipment intact, but holes in the wall from mortars and bullets. The roof had been destroyed in parts, and other walls were cracked and falling. An NGO is subsidizing water costs there, so at least the water is not too expensive.
We headed back to Dadaab as the sun began to set. Along the way we met a refugee family and their goats. “We left Kismayu 30 days ago,” they tell us. “People are starving to death there.”
The family of nine sleeps where night finds them, all their belongings on a donkey cart. They lost all their cows, and decided to leave before their goats died too. The woman is pregnant, and the oldest child is about 12. “Many of our people are going to Dadaab. Being in the camp is better than the drought.”
I found two packs of biscuits and a carton of juice in the boot. Our guide, a better man than I, gave them fare for the bus he knew was coming, so the mother and children could ride for 50 kilometers. The red sun slipped below the horizon into night.
World Concern is one of the first NGOs to be able to help in southern Somalia since Al-Shabaab, the militant group that controls the area, lifted a ban on humanitarian aid groups coming in. Learn more about our response and donate at www.worldconcern.org/crisis.
The term “famine” is not used loosely. In fact, there hasn’t been an official famine since 1984-85 when a million people died in Ethiopia and Sudan. Many of us remember the shocking images of hollow-cheeked, emaciated children on the news.
After multiple consecutive seasons of failed rains, the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Northeastern Kenya and Eastern Ethiopia) – is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. The region is on the brink of famine.
In order to declare a famine, three conditions must be met:
Lack of resources to meet basic food requirements
Acute malnutrition rates above 30 percent
The mortality rate reaches five people per 10,000 per day
Somali refugees are experiencing the first two of these, and Kenyan populations, the second. Acute malnutrition in the region is the highest since 2003, according to USAID. More than 10 million people are affected.
The forecast is bleak. August is expected to be dry. About 1,300 people a day are crossing the border from Somalia into Kenya, landing in ill-equipped, over-crowded refugee camps.
Skyrocketing food prices, conflict, and limited humanitarian access have added to the crisis. Between January and April 2011, food prices increased more than 25% in Kenya. Maize prices in Somalia rose 117% since May of last year, according to the UN. Most of these populations are entirely dependent on livestock for income, but animals are dying at a rate of 40-60% above normal in Ethiopia. In some parts of Kenya most severely affected by drought, water is being trucked in.
“The current situation has been looming for some time; predications and scenarios spoken of three months ago are now, sadly, coming to fruition,” said World Concern Senior Director of Disaster Response and Security Nick Archer.
Our staff in Kenya and Somalia are assessing the needs of people in Eastern Kenya and Somalia this week. We already work in the region, and have for many years, developing clean water sources and more in drought-affected communities.
With the announcement that Al Shabaab, the militant group in control of Southern Somalia, having lifted its ban on humanitarian agencies entering the area, we’re considering resuming work in the Juba Valley – an area so plagued by conflict, we had to leave several years ago.
The faces of starving children from past famines still haunt us. Millions of concerned people around the world responded to the Ethiopia famine with donations. In a crisis, our instinct is to help. As the word “famine” teeters on the tips of officials’ tongues, we’re thankful to be able to do something. You can help World Concern respond by donating here as we deliver water and more to families enduring this crisis.