Kenya + 4 more

Asian disasters and Kenyan drought stretch resources

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

Church World Service is responding to a series of rolling disasters that occurred in quick succession: earthquakes and typhoons in Asia that killed hundreds and left thousands homeless. At the same time, we are responding to equally critical needs caused by food crises throughout the world, including a drought in Kenya.

In asking for the public's assistance, CWS Executive Director John L. McCullough said, "There's never a good time for one, or two or four disasters, but this year's crises, given their size and the scope of destruction, are really stretching response organizations' capacities and resources."

The disasters in Asia prompted immediate responses by CWS.

A Sept. 30 earthquake that struck West Sumatra, Indonesia, killed more than 700 people and flattened or damaged 180,000 buildings. It hit the Padang Pariaman District particularly hard. With staff in Padang and pre-positioned supplies on the island, a CWS team and two trucks of non-food items were quickly on the scene, delivering and distributing tarps, blankets and mats.

Now, CWS is focusing its efforts on assisting more than 80,000 persons in Padang Pariaman District over the next year. For the next two months, CWS will provide emergency shelter materials, including blankets; baby care kits; food for children under five; access to water, hygiene and sanitation facilities; tools for rehabilitation and reconstruction of houses; and psychosocial first aid for those most affected, particularly women and children.

In the following ten months, CWS will help to improve access to water supplies and sanitation facilities; provide temporary shelter and communal facilities; provide livelihood recovery assistance; and help communities prepare for future disasters.

The CWS work in Sumatra came soon after an earlier earthquake hit West Java on Sept. 2, killing some 69 people and severely injuring 370. That also prompted an immediate CWS response that included providing pre-positioned supplies, such as blankets, tarpaulins, rope, mats, mosquito nets and family tents.

Longer-term work will now include providing shelter assistance, such as bamboo sheet walls, beams and tarpaulin roofing to assist some 900 households in four of the worst-affected villages in Tasikmalaya and Garut Districts.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a country recovering from the onslaught of Typhoon Ketsana, CWS is supporting efforts to provide emergency relief food and non-food items for some 17,000 typhoon-affected families in four provinces. And in Cambodia and Vietnam, CWS is working with other members of the Action by Churches Together International network in response to Ketsana's effects on those two southeast Asian countries.

While the typhoons and earthquakes garnered the large share of headlines in recent weeks, CWS is also reminding our supporters that Kenya faces a critical food crisis and water shortage. Some 12 million Kenyans are suffering thirst, hunger, famine and death, in a region where apparent climate change-influences have created protracted drought and crop failures.

CWS has been working in Kenya throughout this year to alleviate the effects of drought, including providing immediate food relief in Kenya's Eastern Province; enhancing selective feeding programs among children and people living with HIV and AIDS; providing additional food allocations /school feeding support to schools where enrollment has decreased due to drought.

In its current response, CWS is distributing seeds to farming households in the lower eastern parts of Kenya so that communities can plant when rains finally do arrive in this rain-parched country.

In reflecting on this spate of weather-related emergencies, Donna Derr, CWS's director of emergency response, noted that while not every storm or natural occurrence or disaster can be blamed on climate change, "the fact is that countries and people and the organizations that respond to them are confronting increasingly unpredictable and more extreme weather occurrences."

"We're having to shift our traditional ways of putting problems in neat boxes," Derr said. "Emergency response and recovery... are merging with our notions of 'development' and 'adaptation.'"

How to help

Contributions to support Church World Service emergency response and recovery efforts may be made online, by phone (800-297-1516), or mailed to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

Media Contact:

Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676,

Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526,