Horn of Africa drought crisis: agencies ‘are not crying wolf’

14 July 2011

by Ed Thornton

BISHOPS are urging congregations and the wider public to provide immediate support to aid agencies working in the Horn of Africa, where more than ten million people are on the brink of starvation (News, 8 July) because of drought.

Speaking to Christian Aid this week, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, said that the UK’s “economic difficulties pale into insignificance in the face of the life-threatening crisis” in East Africa, which is experiencing its worst drought for 60 years. “I hope everyone will find it in their hearts to be as generous as they can.”

The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker, told the aid agency: “The huge increase in world food prices in recent years has hurt many of us in our pockets, but for you and me it is not a matter of life and death. For those facing yet another drought it is the new and aggravating factor on top of all they have suffered before. It calls us to an even more generous response.”

Last Friday, the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, sent an email to all clerics in Herefordshire, South Shropshire, and parishes in Worcestershire and Wales, endorsing Christian Aid’s emergency appeal. “Donations will provide life-saving assistance to villages ex­periencing the worst drought conditions, and food for families. . . There is little we can do so many miles away, but there are some things.”

Bishop Priddis said that the Hereford diocese was working with link dioceses in Tanzania on farming techniques that “will help to avert the potential for this kind of disaster”.

Speaking from northern Kenya on Wednesday, a senior international journalist at Christian Aid, Sarah Wilson, who had just been in the Dabaab refugee camp, said that the camp was receiving between 1300 and 1500 refugees each day. A camp designed to accommodate 90,000 people now had “at least 390,000”; so it was “extremely overcrowded”.


Refugees arriving at the camp were given a health screening so that those who were malnourished could receive emergency treatment, and a 15-day food ration and plastic sheets so that they could survive while waiting to be registered — a process that is taking up to a month because of the numbers.

Christian Aid is channelling the money it raises through Kenyan partners and the Lutheran World Federation, a partner organisation of Christian Aid, which is working in the Dabaab camp, Ms Wilson said.

She said that many had been forced to seek refuge after losing their last cow. “Their survival mechanism is now gone. People are suffering greatly. This problem is not going to go away. It is going to get worse before it gets better.”

On Tuesday, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said that its emergency appeal, rep­resenting 14 aid agencies including Christian Aid, had reached £10 million. The chief executive of the DEC, Brendan Gormley, said: “The UK public have donated the equivalent of £1 for each of the ten million people in need in East Africa. A British pound can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family in Kenya or Somalia for a week. We want people to know their generosity is making a difference.”

On Sunday, Mr Gormley reacted to reports in the British press that aid agencies were “crying wolf” about the situation in East Africa, which has been classified as a disaster but not a famine.

“The accusation that aid agencies are crying wolf when we try to raise the alarm early enough to avert a major catastrophe has become wholly predictable,” Mr Gormley said. “We accept the need to present our evidence and justify our conclusions. All we ask is the opportunity to do so.

“If the public are as generous as we know they can be, if world govern­ments step up, and if our members and others rapidly increase their responses, then a catastrophe can still be averted. If that is the outcome, we accept that part of the price will be that many com­mentators will ask whether there was ever really a crisis at all.”

The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal has announced that it is releasing €20,000 to fund the work of Christian Aid and their local partners who are responding to the crisis on the ground in Kenya and Ethiopia.

The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal has announced that it is releasing €20,000 to fund the work of Christian Aid and their local partners who are responding to the crisis on the ground in Kenya and Ethiopia.

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