The Horn of Africa famine and how you can help

It's incredible to me that in America, we count calories and worry about an obesity epidemic while millions in Africa and around the world are starving. I feel guilty that as I anxiously await the arrival of my new MacBook Pro in the mail, there are people across the world living in extreme poverty. This kind of extreme poverty goes well beyond the economic hardships we're facing here in the States. World Vision aid worker Mindy Mizell wrote a poignant post "A Tale of Two Unemployments" pointing out:

When my husband and I suffered two rounds of back-to-back unemployments in a rocky economic climate in the U.S., I never once worried I would have to skip meals. I never had to go to sleep at night with my throat dry from lack of water. We always had a roof over our heads and enough in savings to sustain us for the short-term. Worst case scenario — we feared moving in with family in another part of the country. But my greatest day-to-day concern was really whether we could continue paying the bills.

Now, with both of us in new full-time jobs in New York, I am struck at how incredibly blessed we were all along. In Somalia, not only are families unable to grow crops to make money, but they don’t have food or water to live on. Many parents are having to pull their kids out of school to look for food or are attempting to relocate on foot to border countries knowing they run the risk of not making it there at all. Their greatest fear isn’t whether they can continue paying the electrical or cable bill but whether their children will survive the next few months. They are having to worry about contracting deadly diseases like cholera, malaria or measles!

Facts about the famine in the Horn of Africa, according to Oxfam and the United NationsFamily at the Dadaab refugee camp. Photo credit:

  • The food crisis has ensnared more than 10 million people across the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) and in two regions of Somalia the United Nations has declared a famine/human catastrophe.
  • A famine is declared when 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 people.
  • The United Nations estimates that $1 billion is needed to stave off a major humanitarian catastrophe, yet only around $200 million in new money has been provided over these last two critical weeks.


Ways to help

First, educate yourself. Take a step back from your busy day, get grounded and really take a look at what's going on in the world around you. The following organizations are an incredible resource for information on worldwide food shortages and the drought and famine in Africa. Second, give to one or more of these organizations. Give as much as you can, and then ask yourself, could you give even more. I realize many of us are living on a tight budget these days, but when we put our own hardships into perspective, I'm sure we can all find a way to help out. Third, if you are spiritual, pray. Keep the people of Africa in your thoughts. Africa is a continent perpetually in crisis, we should never turn our backs on human beings living in such extreme poverty. While all of us have all kinds of our own problems to deal with, we need to be grateful because we really could have it so much worse.

Please consider donating to one or more of these relief organizations (reposted from the ONE blog).

American Refugee Committee: ARC’s team in Mogadishu is working closely with the Drought Relief Commission and other local organizations to respond to the crisis. Our goal is to provide immediate lifesaving relief to support the survival of families affected by the drought. We have provided food aid to families thus far and are advancing the construction of basic services such as latrines and water distribution points. ARC will distribute food packages and non-food items such as bedding, utensils and soap to over 400 families. With a team of experienced staff in place, and an ongoing partnership with the Somalian Diaspora community under our Neighbors for Nations initiative, ARC is well positioned to coordinate rapid emergency response in affected areas of Somalia.

CARE: CARE’s immediate efforts include safe water, sanitation, and emergency aid to newly arrived refugees in Dadaab. To ensure that new refugees have food while they await registration, CARE and WFP have increased the emergency rations distributed immediately upon arrival. Each family now receives enough wheat flour, cornmeal, beans, oil, sugar, salt and corn-soy blend to last for 21 days. In addition, they are providing other essential items such as plastic sheets, bed mats, kitchen and eating sets, blankets and buckets.

Catholic Relief Services: In Ethiopia, CRS is leading a USAID program that will expand its food distribution program from 400,000 to 1 million beneficiaries to meet the current crisis and is working closely with Caritas Ethiopia to identify other critical needs.

Concern Worldwide: Working in the region for over 25 years, Concern Worldwide has long-term development programs in many affected areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, and launched an immediate response to the drought emergency at its onset in late 2010. Concern is directly reaching over 400,000 people in the Horn of Africa region with clean water, food and interventions to treat and prevent malnutrition. For instance, in Somalia, Concern and its local partners are reaching over 100,000 people in worst-affected areas there.

International Rescue Committee: In refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, the IRC is augmenting teams that provide new arrivals at the area’s refugee camps with medical screening and assistance and give fortified food to malnourished young children. In the Turkana district of northwestern Kenya, the IRC and its aid partners have stepped up nutritional programs for 16,000 malnourished children under the age of 5, as well as 5,000 pregnant and lactating women.

Islamic Relief: Islamic Relief Worldwide has provided emergency drought response in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, including three districts in Puntland, Somalia. This response has led to the successful delivery of 7 liters of water a day to 35,406 for a period of one month and the provision of essential primary healthcare services to an additional 1,322 women and children.

Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps’ teams in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are responding, by distributing food and water and expanding critical relief efforts. Mercy Corps is on the ground helping more than 900,000 people in the region survive, and we are ramping up to help even more.

Oxfam America: Oxfam America is responding to the crisis by providing life-saving water, sanitation services, food, and cash with the goal of reaching 3 million people, including 700,000 in Ethiopia, 1.3 million in Kenya, and 500,000 in Somalia.

Save the Children: Save the Children has launched a major humanitarian response in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, feeding tens of thousands of underweight children, providing life-saving medical treatment, and getting clean water to remote communities. Save is also helping communities adapt to more frequent droughts, reducing the number of children at risk in any future food crises.

UNICEF: UNICEF is working with partners to treat acute malnutrition through therapeutic feeding programs; provide medicines and vaccinations to prevent disease; gain access to clean water through the repair of pumping stations, dig boreholes, chlorinate water sources and truck in water; support education through temporary learning spaces and the use of School-in-a-Box kits; and scale up of protection measures to ensure children are safe from violence, abuse and exploitation.

World Concern: World Concern is providing emergency food, water and supplies to approximately 10,000 of the most vulnerable and underserved people affected by the famine in a cross-border response in Kenya and southern Somalia.

World Food Program: The World Food Program is aiming to feed more than 6 million of the most vulnerable, but resources are thin and at the very moment that they should be ramping up operations, they have had to scale back some programs in Ethiopia and Somalia.

World Vision: World Vision is distributing emergency food, water and health care and meeting other urgent needs for children and families.

For a more complete list of organizations responding to the crisis, go to InterAction’s website.


Please donate, and if you do, leave a comment to encourage others.

GivingChel Rogerson