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Kenya drought affects millions

Disaster relief workers are calling for more aid in helping battle the spreading famine in Kenya.


"The international community must wake up to the reality of this growing crisis before it is too late."

—Kirsten Engebak

Disaster relief workers are calling for more aid in helping battle the spreading famine in Kenya. Aid agencies say millions of Kenyans are threatened by the food and water shortage.

According to Action by Churches Together (ACT), some 3.5 million people in Kenya could die if food and water are not provided soon. Severe drought has plagued the region after several rainy seasons have not produced the water supply needed for farming and raising livestock. Relief workers report that livestock are dying, children are showing signs of malnutrition and sickness is spreading.

Many disaster relief agencies are active in the response to the famine, with some providing funds and others providing on-site staffing and guidance. Lutheran World Relief (LWR), a member of ACT, is also working through local partners to meet needs. In a news release, one LWR and ACT contact said the situation is becoming direr by the day.

"More, if not all, remaining animals will die soon if help does not arrive quickly. There is absolutely nothing to eat whatsoever - for livestock or humans," said Kirsten Engebak, area representative for Kenya, Somalia and Uganda for Norwegian Church Aid (NCA).

"The international community must wake up to the reality of this growing crisis before it is too late."

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) sent 12 truckloads of animal feed to the Gabra people, a nomadic people in northern Kenya who raise animals for a living. MCC is also providing funds to another Kenyan Anglican district for feed. An agency representative estimates that 5,000 people will receive feed for their livestock through the effort.

Other members of ACT, such as Church World Service and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) responded to the agency's appeal for $2.4 million on February 2 to respond to the drought. An UMCOR release states that its approach will address immediate needs and a long-term response.

LWR workers are also constructing and rehabilitating wells and dams; providing drought-resistant seeds, farming tools and agricultural training; and establishing community seed banks and training community members to manage them. LWR and its local partners are also vaccinating livestock against drought-related diseases.

"I heard stories of families who once owned 300 animals but were now left with only two or three. This was more the norm than the exception," continued Engebak in the release. "I did not see one blade of grass or one healthy tree during my journey of 230 kilometers through the desert. With no food for the animals, there is also no food for the pastoralists who mainly live on milk from the goats and camels. They are starving."

One member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Global Mission said the drought has severely impacted the local economy.

"Grain prices have almost doubled in most parts of the affected districts while livestock prices have declined significantly, thereby eroding the purchase power of households," said Dr. Belletech Deressa, director for international development and disaster response for ELCA Global Mission.

"The collapse of the livestock market in most of the major cattle-keeping districts has negatively impacted food security."

Church World Service and LWR are also working through local churches to maintain a grassroots response to the famine. Deressa said they are building the capacities of the faith groups and communities in order to equip them with the skills of monitoring and responding to emergencies.

"Lutheran churches in Kenya, together with Church World Service, are engaged in food distribution to drought-affected communities and (mitigation of) the circumstances of conflict caused by the scarcity of food."

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More links on Drought


Related Links:

Action by Churches Together

Church World Service

Lutheran World Relief

Mennonite Central Committee

United Methodist Committee on Relief

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