Kenya (MNN) — The President of Somalia has declared famine in his country as the drought of 2011 is affecting Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, and it's getting worse. Reports suggest up to 11 million people are already affected by the lack of food and water brought on by this disaster.
President of Medical Teams International Bas Vanderzalm says, "Over 750,000 people have had to flee from their homes and are now living in refugee camps and in shelters along the borders. They have no other choice. If they had stayed in their homes, they would have died."
Vanderzalm says the condition of these refugees is critical. "About 50% of the children are acutely malnourished. The rate of death of these children is now three to six times higher than the year before."
While Mission Network News has talked about this drought already, it's yet to hit the international media, says Vanderzalm. He says this could be a catastrophe. "When there are droughts like that in that area, crops fail, cattle die, and people have no choice but to move because there's no food and no water."
Medical Teams International is working through their Christian partners in the region. "They are beginning to provide food and other kinds of assistance," says Vanderzalm. "But they have asked us to help send in medical volunteers and teams."
Medical help is vital, reports Vanderzalm. "When they live in these temporary shelters and camps, because they are already malnourished, they are very sensitive to other diseases. So there have been outbreaks of measles and other diseases that have killed children."
While Medical Teams is providing for their physical needs, Vanderzalm says they also are doing more. "This truly is an opportunity to show people that God loves them and sometimes the needs of the heart can not only be met by physical assistance. Truly what they need is to turn their hearts and lives to Christ."
The needs are great for Medical Teams. Vanderzalm says prayer is needed for those who are suffering and responding. $35 provides medicine for an entire family. Also needed are "medical specialists — physicians, nurses, and emergency medical workers. It's important that we have people with experience working in this setting."