Kenya + 3 more

Drought threatens millions of East Africans, LWR is responding

Baltimore, July 20, 2009 - Lutheran World Relief is mounting an intense relief effort in East Africa where prolonged drought conditions have caused successive crop failure and depleted livestock herds, leaving many East African households vulnerable to hunger.

"The worsening global food and economic crises have left millions of East Africans extremely vulnerable to hunger," says Alissa Karg, LWR's Deputy Regional Director for Africa. "Lutheran World Relief must raise funds now to respond to this crisis and save lives."

Kenya is the worst hit nation, with three consecutive years without sufficient rainfall, leaving 2.5 million people without reliable sources of food-a number that is likely to rise to 2.9 million by November 2009, according to Famine Early Warning Systems network. In turn, food shortages have caused food prices to further increase- 33% over the past year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of Kenya.

Uganda also faces severe food shortages due to drought, especially in its northern and northeastern regions among populations already struggling to recover from decades of armed conflict between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The long nationwide dry spell, and the practice of exporting food crops, has further drained the country's overextended food supply.

Likewise, in drought-afflicted and resource-depleted areas in Sudan, lack of adequate grazing land and water could re-ignite conflict as resources become severely limited. Erratic rainfall in May and June has impaired the cropping season and delayed planting, leaving many Sudanese states at risk of widespread hunger at harvest time in November 2009.

In Tanzania, depleted vegetation and dried water reservoirs have put a particular strain on the Tanzanian "breadbasket"-places such as the Ngorongoro District in Arusha Region- where the majority of the country's food crops are grown. The resulting food shortages have forced the country to intensify border post security to monitor and prevent food exports. An estimated 240,000 people are in need of immediate relief food in Tanzania.

In response to this crisis, LWR is working with partners on the ground in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan to help families cope with drought conditions and protect their land and income for the future. Work focuses on planting drought-resistant crops, applying improved growing methods to increase crop yields during drought conditions, training communities to conserve water, helping to dig boreholes and install irrigation systems, and helping farmers purchase tools, seeds and fertilizers by helping them access credit. LWR has been working in East Africa since the early 1980s, helping impoverished rural communities grow food, access water, and better support themselves.

"By helping communities better adapt to drought conditions, we are ensuring that people have what they need to survive, and recover from drought," continues Karg.

Lutheran World Relief is accepting donations for the East Africa Drought Fund online at lwr.org, by phone at 800-LWR-LWR-2 or by mail at PO Box 17061, Baltimore, MD 21298-9832.