Drought is causing social problems in East Africa

By March 21, 2006

Africa (MNN) — Rains have been scarce over the last two years in East Africa and it appears that trend will continue. As lack of food and water are causing problems for millions, the drought is also disrupting the social structure in East Africa as people no longer are able to offer cattle as dowry for marriages.

Food for the Hungry’s Sarah Sywalka says, “The most noticeable thing when you go into the villages is the abundance of dead animals. The livelihood of the people in these villages is dependant on their cattle. That is their source of food, their source of income and their source of savings. They’re losing their livestock daily.”

According to Sywalka, the situation isn’t looking very bright. “The predictions right now are for below average levels of rainfall.”

Sywalka says in northern Kenya, specifically, are doing all they can to keep their herds alive. “There are certain areas where they can find water and other areas where they can find pasture, but the distance between those two places can be 30 to 40 miles so the animals are having to walk that distance and they’re getting very weak. And, of course the people go with the livestock and they’re also getting pretty weak.”

People are comparing the food shortage to the one in 1984 which caused wide-spread human catastrophe, but that one didn’t affect the cattle as much. Sywalka says predicting this food and water crisis has perhaps curtailed the human crisis temporarily. “We are focusing on distributing emergency food rations, which we started doing in October and I think thanks to that we haven’t seen a real large affect on human nutrition levels yet. If the situation continues we may start to see that.”

Because Food for the Hungry has been working in this region, they already have ties to the local church. While emergency relief is their primary focus, they aren’t shying away from being a living testimony. “If people ask us what’s motivating our work. We are more than happy to explain what that motivation is and that comes from our relationship with Christ.”

Funding is needed for both the emergency food programs and also more people to sponsor children in these hard hit countries.

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