Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has started an East Africa Emergency Fund as massive drought and famine grip the region. Just this week the UN World Food Programme stated that over 11 million people are in desperate need of food aid.
CRS warns the situation is dire and lives are at stake. Low rainfall amounts in recent months have ruined harvests. Food supplies are virtually gone, and what food is left is too high-priced for the already impoverished to access.
CRS Africa Team Leader Brian Gleeson explains, “Rains last fall failed completely. And spring rains earlier this year were erratic and weak. As a result, farmers have experienced horrible harvests and pastoralists are seeing their livestock dying off.”
Somalis, fleeing these drought conditions in their homeland, have fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia out of desperation. They had no choice. There was no more food supply in their community. However, these are areas also under strain from the drought.
These Somali refugees at one of several refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, are among many families who faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS
CRS is running relief operations at refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. Working with church partners, they have also been bringing food aid into Somalia, where access is difficult due to conflict.
In Dadaab, a town in Eastern Kenya, CRS reports that “some 1,300 people arrive each day from drought-stricken Somalia.” In Ethiopia CRS is leading a Joint Emergency Operational Plan that is feeding 400,000 people and will reach 1 million by the end of the month.
Shelters dot a refugee area in Dadaab, Kenya. Thousands of refugees are flooding into Dadaab every week. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS
The plan is now for a massive and sustained relief effort to save lives and prevent malnutrition and disease from taking hold in the drought areas.
The fall harvest can bring more relief. However, Gleeson says “if the fall rains are not strong-or fail again-then this crisis is going to get much, much worse.”
To donate to CRS please visit the East Africa Emergency Fund page.