Drought Conditions in East Africa Remain Dire

By the thousands, hungry, weary and desperate people continue to arrive at the gates of the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, seeking refuge from the drought and food crisis that has driven more than 13 million people across East Africa to the brink of starvation.

In response to this crisis, Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working with its partner, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), to meet the immediate and long-term needs of communities suffering the effects of drought.

LWF manages the Dadaab camps and reports that while they were originally built to host 90,000 refugees, they are now hosting over 400,000 people with 1,200 new arrivals each day.

By the end of 2011, the camp population will likely exceed 500,000 people in need of immediate and long-term humanitarian assistance.

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LWR and LWF have been working to provide water, baby care supplies and psychological support to new arrivals, an extension of the work LWR and LWF have done in Dadaab since 2008, through a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), linking vulnerable refugees to social services, providing shelter and promoting security within the camps.

BPRM recently awarded LWR a $440,000 grant to continue this work with LWF. In addition, LWR and LWF are supplying water to people waiting outside the camps and to communities surrounding the Dadaab complex.

In Ethiopia, LWR and LWF are working to reach underserved rural communities, distributing food as well as training farmers to improve natural resource management and agriculture and providing tools and other supplies to begin replanting.

Long-term plans should seek to ensure that farmers have access to water, supplies and technical training to successfully grow crops and raise livestock. Efforts to promote soil conservation, improve agricultural infrastructure and increase access to local markets will help smallholder farmers become more resilient to future droughts.

LWR says it has seen success with this type of agricultural approach in other drought-affected communities in East Africa and hopes to carry out similar work in response to this crisis.

To mount such a long-term, sustainable development response to the East Africa drought, LWR needs to raise $3 million in 2011 and is accepting donations to its East Africa Drought fund. Donations can be made online at lwr.org/donate.

Lutheran World Relief, an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world’s most impoverished communities to help themselves. LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman