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West Africa drought imminent

By March 29, 2012

Burkina Faso (MNN) — Extreme drought and subsequent famine resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in Africa's Horn last summer. 13 million people throughout the region were affected by the crisis, and recovery is far from over.

There was a great deal of speculation over what could have been done to save lives in East Africa when the famine struck in 2011. Many groups continue to point out that had the international community responded sooner, thousands of lives could have been saved.

There is, therefore, extra pressure for aid groups and international governments to respond to the reports of risk for drought in West Africa. A food crisis is already sweeping some parts of that region. Niger in particular is suffering due to poverty, an influx of refugees from Mali, and high food prices.

Oxfam has blamed a lethal mix of drought, erratic rains, high food prices, entrenched poverty, and regional conflict for the problems to come in West Africa, reports World News Australia.

According to BBC News, Oxfam has launched a $36 million emergency appeal to help reach more than a million of the most vulnerable.

"They list a number of countries [at risk]: Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso," says Paul Darilek with Living Water International. "The only [one of those countries] in which Living Water International [currently] works is Burkina Faso."

LWI played a significant role in the East Africa drought response. Much of that had to do with existing work LWI had in East Africa–Ethiopia, in particular. In West Africa, the situation is different.

The well-drilling outreach is not a relief agency, says Darilek, but rather a development group. In other words, LWI is interested in developing relationships where they work and staying in regions long-term to best portray the love of Christ and to share His hope with their presence.

So, if and when a drought strikes West Africa, LWI will likely not go any further than partnering with other water groups to respond to countries other than Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, LWI is already doing preventative work and is just moving forward with their daily business.

"Food now is still an issue and will remain an issue. But the problem is compounded when you've got to walk seven miles for water–often dirty water or river water. So having a water source in the middle of your village, that's the first step," explains Darilek.

In Burkina Faso, even in areas where there are these water sources–which will be especially vital in times of drought, wells are not always usable.

"There are wells drilled years ago by the government that have fallen into disrepair," explains Darilek. "So we come alongside them and train Burkina people to repair, rehabilitate, and maintain water wells."

In doing so, LWI is providing clean water now and preventing water sources from breaking down in the future, in the height of the possible drought. LWI workers are also building relationships with nationals and with local churches, spreading Christ's name throughout the nation.

Pray for the months ahead in West Africa. Pray for LWI as they continue to respond in Burkina Faso. To help with preventative work there, visit www.water.cc.

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