Drought Conditions in East Africa Remain Dire; Lutheran World Relief Mounts Long-Term Response
Fatumah Muhammed Abdi arrived in Dadaab with five small children, none of them her own. She traveled six days with her nieces and nephews and an orphaned girl from her village to get to the Kenyan border, where they arranged transport to Dadaab.
"They needed to be taken care of," she said of the children. "Older children can take care of themselves, but these ones stressed me. I'm not so worried for the children now that I'm here. I feel like I'm at home and there's no stress. I'm especially happy for them, a chance to grow up and have an education and have them a better future."
Baltimore, September 27, 2011 — By the thousands, hungry, weary and desperate people continue to arrive at the gates of the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, seeking refuge from the drought and food crisis that has driven more than 13 million people across East Africa to the brink of starvation.
Fatumah Muhammed Abdi fled to Dadaab with five unaccompanied children from her village, for whom she is still caring. “When we had nothing else to live for there, we decided to come all the way from Somalia to Kenya,” she says.
Amina Bulle, 18, traveled 20 days on foot with her infant son to reach the camps. “We had no food in Somalia,” she says. “My people were herders but the livestock are all dead so I have fled to Kenya.”
In response to this crisis, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working with its partner, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to meet the immediate and long-term needs of communities suffering the effects of drought.
LWF manages the Dadaab camps and reports that while they were originally built to host 90,000 refugees, they are now hosting over 400,000 people with 1,200 new arrivals each day. By the end of 2011, the camp population will likely exceed 500,000 people in need of immediate and long-term humanitarian assistance.
LWR and LWF have been working to provide water, baby care supplies and psychological support to new arrivals, an extension of the work LWR and LWF have done in Dadaab since 2008, through a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), linking vulnerable refugees to social services, providing shelter and promoting security within the camps. BPRM recently awarded LWR a $440,000 grant to continue this work with LWF. In addition, LWR and LWF are supplying water to people waiting outside the camps and to communities surrounding the Dadaab complex.
“It’s important to remember the host communities in Dadaab,” says McCully. “Reaching out to them with assistance promotes peace and fosters their long-term recovery as well.”
In Ethiopia, LWR and LWF are working to reach underserved rural communities, distributing food as well as training farmers to improve natural resource management and agriculture and providing tools and other supplies to begin replanting.
“Relief is only the first step,” stresses McCully. “To move past this crisis and help rural communities stand up to future droughts, we must make a long-term investment in agricultural livelihoods.”
Long-term plans should seek to ensure that farmers have access to water, supplies and technical training to successfully grow crops and raise livestock. Efforts to promote soil conservation, improve agricultural infrastructure and increase access to local markets will help smallholder farmers become more resilient to future droughts. LWR has seen success with this type of agricultural approach in other drought-affected communities in East Africa and hopes to carry out similar work in response to this crisis.
To mount such a long-term, sustainable development response to the East Africa drought, LWR needs to raise $3 million in 2011 and is accepting donations to its East Africa Drought fund. Donations can be made online at lwr.org/donate, by phone at 800.597.5972 or by mail at P.O. Box 17061, Baltimore, MD 21298-9832 USA
Jonathan Ernst for Lutheran World Relief