District 9200 delivers famine relief to Kenya communities gripped by drought

By Ryan Hyland
Rotary International News -- 19 August 2011

Drought-stricken villages in northern Kenya received desperately needed aid this week from District 9200 (East Africa) and the Red Cross, which delivered more than 18 tons of food and water.

The hunger crisis plaguing the Turkana district in northern Kenya is a "stark example of what is happening to people in East Africa," says Greeta Manek, District 9200 governor-elect. The Horn of Africa's worst drought in 60 years has sparked famine conditions in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Manek, along with three Rotarians and the secretaries general of Kenya Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross, visited the village of Kaikor on 25 July.

"We witnessed horrific scenes of starvation and unimaginable poverty," says Manek, a member of the Rotary Club of Muthaiga, Kenya.

The drought in Africa has affected more than 12 million people including 3.7 million who are at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations. Tens of thousands of people have died in southern Somalia, including 29,000 children under the age of five. Hundreds of thousands are fleeing Somalia to seek aid in Ethiopia and Kenya.

While many international relief agencies are at the southern border of Kenya and Somalia, Manek says the nomadic villages of Turkana, including Kaikor, have received little aid.

"There are so many areas that have been totally forgotten, and Turkana is one of them," says Manek. "We [Rotary] must act quickly."

District Governor Eric Kimani says there is an alarming rate of malnutrition among children in Turkana.

"We are stunned by the scale of this devastation. The exodus of malnourished children to feeding centers is shocking," Kimani says. "A rapid increase in emergency aid is required to stave off catastrophic starvation."

Kimani is appealing to Rotarians worldwide to help the district secure food and water for thousands of people still at risk in Turkana.

"While the entire region [Horn of Africa] has experienced prolonged drought, the situation has been exacerbated by political instability and climate change," says Kimani. "But we as Rotarians must find ways to address the hunger crisis first."

Learn more about how to help District 9200

In response to the crisis, The Rotary Foundation has established the Rotary Horn of Africa Famine and Refugee Relief Fund, which will support recovery projects in the affected areas.