In summer 2011, when famine and violence were engulfing her country, Fadumo “Mama” Sharif Mohamed left Somalia with her husband and ten children. On their eight-day trek to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, militia attacked them and they lost the family’s food. Her children, like thousands of others, suffered from malnutrition. But she and her family made it to the refugee camp and were put in a section called Kambioos, where Catholic Relief Services (a Caritas member based in the USA) is working to build and improve water systems. Fadumo became a leader as she settled into camp life. She was the founding member of the MIDNIMO women’s group, which began with 25 people and today has 183 members. The group does basket weaving, woodcarving, and henna decorating, and also bakes traditional bread. Due to strong management, the women’s group is able to successfully earn money by selling their […]
While Caritas and other aid agencies have helped millions of East Africans through the worst of the region’s food crisis, more remains to be done. Susan Hodges of Vatican Radio interviews Caritas’ Laura Sheahen about her visit to Caritas projects in Kenya–and about the ongoing impact of the 2011 drought. Listen to the interview
By Laura Sheahen
“When you’re hungry, if you have seeds, you start cooking.” Kotola Susana grins ruefully as he describes the situation of many of his fellow Kenyan farmers. After years of poor rains culminated in a devastating drought in East Africa, farmers ran out of options. In southern Kenya, where they raise corn, sorghum and other grains, fields were dry and brown. In the north, where most families live off their herds, people watched goats and cows grow rib-thin and die.
The drought of 2011 destroyed agricultural and livestock safeguards that millions of East Africans rely on. “People ate up their seeds. The seed banking system had collapsed,” says Shadrack Musyoka, who works for Caritas in a southern farming area called Kitui. “And a lot of seed was wasted when people planted early and the rains didn’t come.
“People who were traditionally OK were suddenly not OK.”
In an area of northern […]
By Laura Sheahen
Alice had always been first in her class as a child, but now she kept getting kicked out of secondary school. “Every time people were sent home for lack of school fees, my name was on the list,” she says. “I was ashamed.”
Education in Kenya is technically free, but in poor villages, parents are required to give a few dollars a month to pay teachers or even fix the school roof. So Alice would leave classes for a few weeks until her farming family could scrape together enough money to send her back. Then she’d struggle to catch up. “I had to work harder,” she remembers. “I didn’t sleep very much.”
In fits and starts, she managed what seemed to be impossible for a village child whose parents never went to school: she was accepted into a university.
“I studied organic chemistry and math,” she says. “I tested organic […]
Your support helped over one million people in East Africa overcome their worst drought in 60 years. You made it possible for Caritas to distribute emergency food, create water projects, and give out seeds so farmers can rebuild.
In November 2011, Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen visited Kenya to see the community response in action. Explore the features below to find out how your support made a difference.
When drought pits neighbour against neighbour
“Herdsmen came here looking for pasture,” says Mwinzi Munyoki Tutu, a young farmer in southern Kenya. “We refused.”
‘You heard our cries’: hunger in East Africa
“I met a woman who was crying because she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen so much food.”
Seeds of hope after drought
“When you’re hungry, if you have seeds, you start cooking.” Kotola Susana grins ruefully as he describes the situation of many of his fellow Kenyan farmers.
Kenyan students back to school
Alice had […]
“Mothers said their children were too weak to walk to the clinic,” says a nurse who treated malnourished people in northern Kenya during the worst of 2011’s drought. Throughout East Africa, poor rains led to hunger on a massive scale.
By late 2011, your gifts had turned things around. Caritas immediately distributed emergency food, but also set up long-term projects that help villagers capture water and raise food even in drought times. Explore this gallery of photos from Kenya to see how you helped.
Photos by Laura Sheahen/Caritas
Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services (a Caritas member in the USA), spoke about the Horn of Africa food crisis at a press conference held in Rome on 7 October. Having worked in East Africa for over 35 years, I am deeply saddened to witness a tragedy of biblical proportions unfolding again. I thank the Holy Father for calling the Church’s–and the world’s–attention to the plight of hungry and distressed people across the Horn of Africa. Catholic Relief Services, along with local Church and Caritas organisations at the diocesan and national levels, as well as non-Catholic groups and host governments, have been helpful in bringing short- and long-term interventions to families in distress. In response to the situation facing the people of the Horn—including Somalis both in Somalia and those who have had to flee to neighbouring countries for safety—CRS has committed to expanding our long-term development and immediate […]