“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.” It’s a phrase known to Christians around the world, one of the most beloved verses of a beloved psalm. It was the psalm Pope Benedict XVI referred to during his weekly audience Wednesday 5 October which ended with an appeal to the world not to forget East Africa, where drought has turn green pastures brown and made water scarce. Crops have failed; herdsmen have watched their goats and cattle grow thinner and die. Tens of thousands of families walked for weeks to reach refugee camps, or anywhere with water.
What is the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa?
In Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and nearby areas, a severe drought has led to massive numbers of people going hungry. Famine has been declared in several districts of Somalia. Because goats and cattle are dying of thirst and starvation, people who herd livestock are losing their source of food. Hundreds of thousands of children are malnourished.
The extreme weather has dried up crops, as well as rivers and other water sources. These losses come at a time when farming households’ food supplies are already extremely low, as they wait for their mid-year harvest to mature–if they were able to plant crops or have not used the seeds to feed their families.
Sharply rising food prices–caused not only by the drought but by world economic conditions–have affected many impoverished people in the region, including those in towns and cities.
What are people doing to cope?
Caritas Kenya is supporting survivors of a huge fire that devastated the Sinai slums in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on 12 September.
Over a hundred people were killed and a hundred more injured after a pipeline burst and leaked fuel into the Ngong river, which passes through this slum area. Kenya Pipeline Company managing director Selest Kilinda blamed a faulty valve.
People from the densely populated shanties had already started siphoning the fuel when the fire started. People cooking close to the pipeline may have sparked off the inferno.
A group of Caritas staff members and church leaders visited the site of the disaster and met with survivors in a temporary camp and those with serious burn injuries in the hospital.
The camp hosts about 200 men, women and children. Caritas Kenya jointly with Caritas Nairobi donated food items, blankets and mosquito on 14 September in the camp.
Rt. Rev. Martin Kivuva, Bishop Chairman […]
Caritas is appealing for 4 million euro (US$5.6 million) to help Kenya during its most severe drought in 60 years.
Over 3.6 million people are in need of emergency assistance but this could rise to 5 million as the situation worsens. Caritas will provide food and water and will also help farmers improve their crops and boost their livestock.
Alistair Dutton, Caritas Internationalis humanitarian director recently returned from a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. He said, “People are very concerned about where they are going to get food and water from and also how they are going to provide water for their livestock. Short of migration, they have very limited options.”
Caritas will support 30,420 households in the 14 most affected dioceses of Kenya in its the eight- month emergency programme. This will include providing many households with two meals a day, 7.5 litres of safe water per person per day and […]
By David Snyder
As if the cracked earthen floor of the Kwa Kivanga dam is not reminder enough of the drought gripping Kenya, the long waits for water make memories of last year’s plenty that much more painful. Just one year ago, this pond in Kenya’s drought-stricken Eastern Province helped feed a nearby borehole with so much clean water that local residents could fetch all they could carry – a memory local resident Daniel Motiso cannot help but smile at now.
“We had a pump but it wasn’t producing much water. We could only get one jerry can each day because we limited the water,” Motiso said of the days before the dam was built. “After the dam we could get four cans.”
Built by Caritas Kenya as part of the Katangi Food Security Project in 2008, the Kwa Kivanga dam has been a huge success. Here in the village of Kalele […]
The land is barren, the animals are dead, the people are starving. This is one face of northern Kenya in July 2011.
“The famine started last year,” says Ellela from the village of Lokitaung. “There were no rains last year or this year. We have had drought for two years. If there are no people with the good heart to help us we will die.”
On a recent trip to Kenya, Eoghan Rice from Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) reported seeing malnourished children waiting at clinics for emergency treatment, adults who were just skin and bone and the carcasses of livestock littering the scorched and lifeless ground.
“I have not had a proper meal in seven days,” said Locheramoe Kuwom. “I had nothing yesterday except for tea. The day before I had a bit of palm fruit. There is a lot of hunger here. If this situation goes on, most of the people who […]
By Eoghan Rice
The Turkana district of northern Kenya is where human life began. The earliest known human remains have been found here and in the areas just north across the Ethiopian border.
The fact that human life has been sustained here for hundreds of thousands of years points to a fertile land capable of producing food. So, what has changed?
In a word: climate.
The facts speak for themselves: a two degree rise in temperature since 1960; the last eight years being the hottest on record; a 25 per cent decrease in rainfall over 10 years.
East Africa can produce food to sustain its population but the goalposts have been moved on it.
Today, the Turkana lands are dry and dusty as far as the eye can see. Every river on the 230km drive from Lodwar to Lokitaung has dried-up. Where rivers once flowed, there are now dusty valleys.
On the land which was once […]
By Laura Sheahen
“Aden, my oldest son, was four years old. He was watching our goats,” says Ahada, a Somali woman in her early twenties. “Men with guns came and wanted the animals. Aden shouted, ‘Don’t take our goats!’”
Ahada’s small son was caught in the midst of the chaotic, seemingly never-ending war in Somalia. Armed bandits, militias and other violent groups terrorize the country’s rural population, who are mostly nomadic herdsmen. Children are not spared. Aden wasn’t.
Aden was shot and killed in the midst of a drought that was leading to famine. Ahada’s husband was also killed by militants. After that she knew she had to flee. She’d heard of a country called Kenya, so she took her two children there, crossing the border.
Thousands of other mothers were making the journey as well. Thirty-year-old Hawa, a mother of seven, was eight months pregnant as she walked for ten days, carrying […]
By Laura Sheahen,
Death by starvation, death by lions and hyenas or death by armed bandits. Which do you pick? For refugees streaming out of Somalia, there’s no luxury of choice. They’re facing all three.
Carrying babies in front and toddlers piggyback, clutching small plastic bags of belongings, thousands of Somalis are trudging barefoot for dozens or hundreds of miles. For months, as no rains fell in their homeland, they watched their cattle and goats die of thirst and hunger. Their stocks of corn or flour ran out, and they watched their children growing thinner and weaker. Finally, they gave up hoping that something would change and they left.
They travel in groups of about 50 because danger is all around them: ambushes by men with guns are common in the area. So when they see something threatening in the distance, they run for what cover they can find—not easy in empty […]
By Laura Sheahen
They’ve walked for days or weeks, and their shoes show it. Dusty and worn, the sandals of a little boy dangle in his hand as he wails in the centre of a refugee camp.
Nearby, his mother rocks her sobbing baby. The family has made it to the camp, one of several in northeast Kenya that are receiving a flood of refugees from Somalia.
“We had livestock like sheep, goats, and cattle-over a dozen,” says a 22-year-old mother named Momina. “They all died of the drought.”
“We used to eat corn,” she continues. “But food was running out. So we left.”
Walking in a group of about 20 people, it took Momina 20 days to get from her home in Somalia to the Kenyan camp. They slept under the stars, ate whatever they had left, and managed to avoid attacks-by wild animals and by the bandits that plague the area.
Over 1,000 […]
The rolling mountains in the distance are known locally as Louwa Le Ukinchu, or Cattle Mountains. For generations, people have travelled there to find water and pasture for their animals. But today, the streams that run down Cattle Mountains are dry.
Most families in Isiolo, 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, are pastoralists: they rely on cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels to make a living. These animals aren’t simply a source of food and milk – they’re living banks, the main assets that people own. When their animals die, as they’ve been doing at an alarming rate, pastoralists don’t have the means to feed their families.
The devastating drought that’s hit large parts of northern Kenya has forced pastoralists near Cattle Mountains to travel further than ever before in search of water and pasture to keep their animals alive. The effects are visible in the expansive dry scrublands: […]
By Samson Malesi Shivaji, National Livelihoods Coordinator, Caritas Kenya
Unusual rain, inconsistent water supply, high temperatures overall and extreme heat in some places, windy conditions, reduced farming outputs with greater costs, conflict and people forced from their homes.
In Kenya, the definition of climate change to the ordinary person in the village is devoid of scientific and technical parameters. Instead, the definition is the reality of everyday challenges that such an ordinary person has to live with from dawn to dusk.
The impact of climate change in Kenya hits hard on the resources of poor homes and they don’t have the capacity to combat its affects. The international debate on climate change does not resonate with the ordinary man or woman in Kenya. They are more concerned with how to cope with the challenges posed by the changes.
Food security is key to development. This is particularly important in Kenya, since the agricultural […]
2008 began badly for Mary, her three daughters, and six grandchildren. Post-election violence in Kenya escalated into ethnic conflict that saw families driven from their homes.
“I don’t even want to remember the picture of that day. They were running in all directions, setting fire to crops and houses,” said Mary.
Her family was taken into the home of an ordinary family who stood up to the forces of division. Caritas helped Mary and her hosts Peter and Margaret Wambui with rations and clothing, as well as working in camps providing food, medical help and counselling.
Zimbabwe’s decline took on frightening momentum. A bloody election left the country without effective leadership. Caritas reported that nine out of ten people were short of food.
A major cholera epidemic pointed to the collapse of healthcare, schools, water and electricity supply. Caritas distributed chlorine tablets to stop the epidemic, repaired water points, and trained people to […]
The crisis in Kenya in 2008 was triggered by the alleged rigging of the December 2007 preside ntial election — setting various ethnic groups against each other.
What began as political violence, quickly became ethnic.
By 21st January 2007, “ethnic cleansing” had resulted in displacement of more than 300,000 people of all walks of life from diverse ethnicities into camps and with host families.
The crisis had the underlying deep seated issues that have roots in the historical inequalities and injustices between ethnic groups in Kenya.
Reconciliation is far from achieved.
At the end of the year, still over a hundred thousand people living in camps, transit centres, or hosted by families.
While some families are afraid of being driven away again by angry neighbors, other displaced people have different reasons for not returning home.
Some are waiting until they receive the full amount of resettlement funds promised by the Kenyan government. Others who were previously […]
In the course of his day’s work last week Stephen Kituku saw hungry children with swollen stomachs, dead animals on roadsides and met families who were surviving on one meal a day.
He’s the National Emergency Officer for Caritas Kenya. That was one day, it’s probably safe to say that what he sees over the next few months will be much, much worse.
Up to 10 million people in Kenya are estimated to be at risk of acute hunger. This current food crisis comes just three years after 3.5 million Kenyans went hungry after a succession of poor rains limited the country’s food production.
“It’s almost as though people forget to think about food security once a crisis is over,” says Mr Kituku. “Kenya relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture so it’s vital we implement long-term projects to ensure that there’s enough water for crops and to teach people about conserving what they harvest.”