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Urgent humanitarian crisis looms in East Africa

Urgent humanitarian crisis looms in East Africa


World Vision's communications director for East Africa, Nigel Marsh, says the Horn of Africa needs urgent help now. As the United Nations doubles its financial appeal for Somalia (21 March) to US$326m, Marsh emphasizes that although it is not an official famine yet, "early action is essential to prevent a famine like the 1980s one that devastated Ethiopia".

Marsh and his team have been monitoring the situation in Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania, and he says it's critical for developed countries to send help now. "A serious crisis is looming, but intervention now can prevent millions of deaths."

He says in areas where World Vision has been working long term, the people are coping better with the drought because of irrigation schemes, canals, water catchment projects and wells that have been in place for some time.

The bad news is 14.2 million people are in danger of starvation in East Africa unless funds are raised for food and water.

Sidebar:

The Horn of Africa is crying out for water. There is nothing to eat, nothing to drink and nowhere to graze. Thirst is extreme in Oleopolos village in Loodariak, Kenya, but the safest drinking water is 15 kilometers away.

When 15-year-old Monica Kimiti finishes school for the day, she has to trek this distance to get water for her large family. She is the only member of the family who has the energy as she is guaranteed a meal in school during the day, through World Vision's school feeding programme.

Children were coming to school hungry, fainting and falling asleep because of hunger, so World Vision initiated a school feeding programme at this and many affected schools throughout their project areas.

Loodariak, like the rest of Kenya, is dry. Temperatures soar to as high as 40 degrees Celsius. There is nothing green in the vicinity. Most livestock, including wild animals like antelopes, have died or are too weak to walk. A tragedy for this Maasai community, who rely on livestock for their livelihood.

In November, Monica's father dispatched his 18-year-old son, Moses – who sat his grade twelve national examinations last year – with two surviving cows to search for pasture.

"My brother is awaiting his examination results is in Nairobi. I understand he treks from area to area grazing our cows and those of other relatives," Monica says.

She says the grazing in the city violates the government's by-laws that prohibit livestock into the city centre. This led to his arrest last month. He was locked up until her elder sister paid the fine.

Monica hopes and prays for rain. She describes hunger that has hit the area as the worst form of human degradation, as those starving violate their dignity to access food to survive.

Currently, 3.5 million people including 500,000 school children in Kenya require emergency food aid. The drought has been persistent for the last six years with five consecutive failed rainy seasons depleting all sources of livelihood.

The United Nations and other experts have warned that unless aid trickles in now, a human catastrophe is imminent.

World Vision NZ is accepting donations for the Horn of Africa food crisis on 0800 80 2000, or through the website: www.worldvision.org/donations

ENDS

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