As the drought crisis continues to worsen in the Horn of Africa, Christian humanitarian groups such as World Vision, Salvation Army and Christian Aid-U.K. are responding with increased aid to the estimated 14.2 million people at risk.
World Vision International Communications reported on Wednesday that the growing drought crisis in East Africa has been upgraded to Category III status – the highest level of emergency – by the agency as it prepares to increase its response if the expected rains perform poorly.
According to a recent estimate, 14.2 million people are at risk of severe food insecurity in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. WV plans to assist the communities most affected by the drought both within and outside its existing operating area.
In southern Ethiopia, U.K.-based Christian Aid, a member of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, is working with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church of Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to help provide water and work for the Borana people who live in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
Christian Aid and EECMY are expected to request Rapid Response Funds from the ACT Coordinating Office in Geneva in the coming days for the urgent needs in the emergency phase, according to a report by ACT on Tuesday.
Working in Kenya, The Salvation Army reported that nearly 3.5 million rural pastoral and farming people – including 500,000 schoolchildren – need emergency assistance after five consecutive poor seasons.
“Kenya is a country I have worked in on a number of occasions. Returning there at the end of February I was deeply saddened to see the devastating effect of continued drought,” said Major Cedric Hills, Salvation Army International Emergency Services Coordinator. “As we drove from the airport into the center of the capital city, Nairobi, the impact was clear to see. The fields lining the highway were dry, brown and empty. Masai herdsmen, normally seen in the vast plains of the Rift Valley, have driven their cattle many miles and now search in the streets of Nairobi for pasture for their animals.”
Hills further noted that men drive their herds for many miles in desperate search of pasture to keep the animals alive, leaving behind the women and children who are "completely vulnerable and dependent upon aid."
The drought is due to the poor performance of several successive rainy seasons. The failure of the last rains added to an already fragile situation that has eroded both the livelihoods and coping strategies of the affected populations, particularly in pastoralist areas.
The Salvation Army noted that children are being withdrawn from secondary schools because the family cannot afford to pay the fees.
As part of The Salvation Army's relief work in Kenya, a "Food for Fees" program is being launched. Supplies of basic food commodities (maize, beans and oil) will be delivered to secondary schools, guaranteeing that children will receive their needed daily meal. The schools will use the value of the "gift-in-kind" to offset against fees for children whose families have lost herds and crops and are struggling to survive.
In Kenya around $200,000 (USD) will be made available for this intervention.
Hills concluded, "We can't cover all schools with this program – but it is a start. We are thrilled by the response so far to our appeal but we know there is still so much to do."