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Kenyans suffer as drought hits hard

02 November 2006

THE FOOD CRISIS in East Africa continues to bite, taking 11 million people close to starvation.

Among the worst hit are some of the smaller tribes in the region, including the Gabra and Rendille peoples from northern Kenya. After three consecutive years of drought, farmers are selling off the last of their livestock for food. Grazing land has withered, and many animals have already died.

"Milk is like gold, and meals are scarce," said one mother who is now being helped by the Christian relief agency Tearfund and its regional partner, the Africa Inland Church. "I have one child, and since he had been born he has been ill. We need a balanced diet so the child will grow well."

The drought has hit pastoral areas hardest, where the majority of people depend on cows and goats for income. Fighting has also broken out over grazing land as people move nearer to urban areas to find new pasture.

Church leaders in Kenya have spoken out against a forcible programme of disarmament carried out by the army in the northern Rift Valley district, where thousands of nomads have fled to neighbouring Uganda to look for land. "Asking them to surrender their guns leaves them without protection," said the Revd Jephthah Gathaka, executive director of the Ecumenical Centre for Justice.

The government has said that it has been targeting thousands of illegal firearms used by communities in bloody cattle raids, and that a voluntary disarmament campaign had failed.

Christian Aid has reported that some areas have been hit by freak floods after the drought. Sudden rains have caused flooding and swept away homesteads and livestock. The rains have also hampered some of the development work.

New forum for peace
A new church peacekeeping forum was launched in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, this week. The Great Lakes Region Ecumenical Forum, an advocacy group of churches, aims at speaking out strongly to end and prevent conflicts in war-torn regions of Africa.

"It will help the ecumenical family address peace issues and conflict transformation in the region and beyond," said the Revd Fred Nyabera, the executive director of the Fellowship of Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.

Its work will focus on Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); but the forum will also target nearby Uganda and Tanzania.


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