THE long-awaited rains, when they came, did not fall on the parched lands of East Africa; and in Kenya and Uganda they came too late, and washed away the seed. Somalia has been left in desperate need, and in Ethiopia the government has called for emergency help.
“The situation has escalated since August, and is spread across the whole region,” the campaigns director for the Mothers’ Union community, Grace Cowley, said last week.
“We have sent out three times as much aid as we did when you last wrote about the situation (News, 21 August). We are at the absolute limit of our reserves. We desperately need money. It is entirely the result of climate change. The farmers used to be able to predict when the rains would come. Now, they don’t know if they will come at all.
“We estimate that 23 million people are directly affected, although it could be double that. We are feeding 60,000 households . . . That’s 600,000 people to whom we wire money so they can buy maize, soya beans, salt, flour, and petrol.”
In Kenya and Uganda, people are unwilling to talk about the suffering, which makes their current appeals all the more significant. “They live under extraordinary hardships,” Ms Cowley said. “In the north-east corner of Uganda, women fear for their lives, and have not slept in their homes for years because they fear passing men will attack them with machetes on a whim.”
At a UN world food-programme meeting last month to discuss the regional crisis, the government of Ethiopia asked for emergency aid for 6.2 million people. The UN said that $US175 million would be needed over the next six months.
World Vision’s programme associate for the area, Dawn Goodwin, said on her return from Ethiopia last week that her organisation was responding both to the immediate crisis and to long-term needs. “There is no quick or easy ‘fix-all’ solution.”
The Barnabas Fund said that, in Kenya, one in ten of the population was receiving emergency rations. The rains had caused flooding and brought disease.
One Kenyan Christian leader, Francis Ormondi, said that many people were affected, a large number of cattle had died, and the people needed help. “Now that the rains have come, people need seed to sow, but they need food to feed their families until they can harvest their crops.”
A synod of African Roman Catholic bishops, held in the Vatican two weeks ago, issued a statement saying that Africa was rich in human and natural resources, but “many of our people are still left to wallow in poverty and misery, wars and conflicts, crisis and chaos.
“These are very rarely caused by natural disasters. They are largely due to human decisions and activities by people who have no regard for the common good, and this often through a tragic complicity and criminal conspiracy of local leaders and foreign interests.
“Africa is not helpless. Our destiny is still in our hands. All she is asking for is space to breathe and thrive.”
New campaign launched. The St Matthew’s Children’s Fund, founded by the Anglican Church of Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to care for orphaned children after the devastating famine of 1984, has launched a new campaign.
The Twenty5 campaign highlights the number of years that have passed since the 1984 famine. Money raised will go towards long-term projects in urban communities throughout Ethiopia which promote urban agriculture and environmental improvement, and to help communities care for children who are orphaned.
The campaign is supported by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and by the Bishop of the Horn of Africa, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud.