Drought crisis in Horn of Africa unabated

By August 15, 2011

Kenya (MNN) — Tens
of thousands of refugees fleeing famine and fighting in Somalia are arriving in
Kenya where refugee camps are now reaching capacity.

In a press briefing Friday, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian
Edwards said the UN had plans to open a new camp on Saturday to ease
overcrowding. "The new site, known
as Kambioos, is situated close to the Hagadera camp and has a planned capacity
of 90,000 people. Tents and infrastructure are being put in place and will
provide much-needed shelter and services."

Roughly half of the promised monies to fund the relief
programs have come in, compounding the tight budgets strained by multiple
disasters this year. Keith Wright with Food For the
says, "As we look at the situation in Somalia,
gearing up to work with what is reaching up to almost 400,000 Somalis that
have come over into Kenya, we can reach them through our base in Kenya."

For Somalia, the exodus is the visible impact of a perfect
storm. "It's really just a result of cumulative
years of not quite enough rain, the flora kind of wears out, and then the bottom
really dropped out." Wright says
the terrorist aspect of the scenario didn't help. Even though al Shabaab cleared out of the
capital city, the real problem was in the South. However, as aid groups tried to get there
with supplies,  they discovered that
"humanitarian workers aren't just 'at risk' — they're targeted. Any
humanitarian supplies are targeted as well."

Increasing security risks meant that some aid groups had to
pull back. However, because FH has been
working in both Ethiopia and Kenya for years already, "We're very
fortunate that the response is well coordinated. We intentionally partner with
the government and other agencies to make sure that the needs were being

Although Ethiopia and Kenya share borders, how have they
been able to weather the crisis so much better? Part of the reason lies in the Somalia's 'failed state' status. Wright explains, "It's so chaotic.
Without that fundamental building block of stability, there's really no way to
prepare for a drought like this."

Wright notes that their teams are involved in interventions at
34 health facilities and 102 outreach centers in Kenya. In Ethiopia, they're doing food distributions for 72,199 people living in
the Amhara region and South Nations. "There
are about 3.7 million people in the region who need immediate lifesaving
support. That's the first tier of food assistance in Ethiopia and Kenya. We're also
monitoring children under five,
identifying any severe cases of malnutrition."

However, because of the longstanding investment in both
Ethiopia and Kenya, "Working with church leaders, working on biblical
worldview, working on market access, helping nutrition for children, water points — all
those things strengthen a community's resiliency over time," which means both of the regions where they
have projects are able to weather the crisis better than they would have been
able to do ten years ago.

The hope of Christ comes into play, woven into every part of
their response. Their teams are excited
because "with the Somalis, that's a tremendous opportunity. Frankly, at
this level of crisis, it's feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. That's
tier 1 and that is the love of Christ. That's what we're called to do, but it
does open up opportunities."

The famine and drought are considered among the worst in the
last half century. What can you do? "The
main thing is be aware, and pray. These people need absolute grace. These are lives
at risk, and then responding materially to organizations like FH and others who
are on the frontlines makes a huge difference."

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