In late January, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) concluded its final food distribution in Kenya in response to the East Africa drought.
In 2011 the region of East Africa experienced its lowest level of rainfall in 60 years, affecting over 13 million people. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were particularly hard hit. Because droughts have become more frequent in this region in recent years, communities have been left with little time to recover, making each new drought more devastating.
After becoming aware of the needs in East Africa, hundreds of churches, thousands of individuals, and several non-profit organizations contributed to CRWRC for its drought response. More than $8 million was received. This tremendous outpouring of funds enabled CRWRC to do extensive food assistance, as well as water and livestock projects in the region. The largest portion of these funds was spent in Kenya.
Through partnerships with local church agencies in Kenya and its alliance with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), CRWRC provided food assistance to 14,000 drought affected households or 112,000 people throughout Kenya. In addition, CRWRC provided drinking water and livestock feed and medicine to the households in greatest need within these drought-affected communities.
This Food Assistance enabled families to stop worrying about finding food sources, and to instead focus their efforts on productive activities such as restocking their animal herds and doing income-generating activities.
“Food assistance is an extremely vital, though temporary, measure that, when partnered with other initiatives such as safe water access, livestock feeding, veterinary care, and disaster risk reduction programming can beneficially impact communities in the long-term and enhance their capacity to respond to potential future disasters,” said Wayne de Jong, CRWRC Director of Disaster Response and Rehabilitation.
That’s just what CRWRC did. In addition to direct food aid, CRWRC also provided food-for-work projects, livestock feeding, veterinary care, and a disaster risk reduction specialist to help Kenyan communities.
Esther is one of the people who were impacted. Esther lives in the Turkana region of Kenya and cares for 10 children. Her family, like others in the region, earns their income by raising goats and cows. The animals graze on grass and provide families with milk, meat, and a source of income.
When the drought came, many of Esther’s goats died. While her husband tended to their few remaining animals, Esther made and sold charcoal in order to earn enough money to purchase food for one meal a day. She and the children also gathered seeds and wild fruits to supplement their diet.
CRWRC’s food assistance program changed Esther’s situation dramatically. She received a food basket of maize and split peas once a month from September through January. This enabled her family to eat at least two meals each day. Esther also shared some of the food basket with members of her extended family, so that even more people could be helped.
When rains came to the Turkana region in October, Esther praised God. Now there is rain-fed grass for her remaining goats to graze on. She is hopeful that the animals will grow healthy and her family will be able to support itself one again.
“Please join us in thanking God for what He has enabled CRWRC to accomplish in terms of short and long-term impacts for the people of Kenya,” said de Jong. “Please also continue to pray for the region and CRWRC’s disaster response efforts in the areas most affected.”
While CRWRC’s food assistance programs in response to the East Africa drought in Kenya have concluded, food programs in Ethiopia and Somalia will continue for the next couple of months. In addition, parts of Kenya have recently suffered from unusual weather including flooding in Kilifi district and even frost in Laikipia district. This has damaged crops and further increased the vulnerability of people. CRWRC is watching the situation closely and will respond with appropriate assistance.
~ by Vanessa Mathews-Hanna, CRWRC Disaster Response