‘This is the worst crisis we’ve ever experienced. We’ve gone from a reasonably successful life to utter devastation.’
The words of Salina Mamoru convey something of the detrimental impact of the drought affecting more than 13 million people in East Africa but her appearance and living conditions also speak volumes.
The 37-year-old is staying in the Katilu displacement camp in Turkana, northern Kenya, a dry, sandy and dusty place that has no home comforts.
Yet people like Salina come here in hope they will find food and water, two things in incredibly short supply in northern Kenya, as well as Somalia and southern Ethiopia after months without rain.
For Salina and her neighbours, accommodation at the camp consists of huts made of mud and sticks, with a few residents having sheets of plastic to bolster their flimsy rooves.
Salina has six children to look after and all her money has gone on buying food and medicines to keep them alive.
Her husband can’t find work in this parched landscape and there’s no help forthcoming from the government or anyone else.
Salina, who is thin and tired, prays for three things, that her sick children will get better, her husband will find work and there’ll be rain soon.
It’s a prayer echoed by mother-of-four Maka who walked 28 days through the bush between Somalia and Kenya.
It was a sapping and heartbreaking journey, with Maka seeing people die along the way due to lack of food and water.
‘People would say “I can’t walk anymore” then sit down under a tree and die,’ she recalls.
‘We don’t have enough food and water. I don’t know what to do with my sick child.’
Tearfund partner, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), is responding in northern Kenya, providing water and repairing broken boreholes to get supplies back on line.
Fellow partner, Christian Community Services of Mount Kenya East (CCSMKE), is also helping by getting water to needy families through organising a shuttle of tankers to the area.
Across East Africa, seven Tearfund partners are tackling hunger caused mainly by drought and high food prices in the hardest-hit regions of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
Life-saving services are being provided to 100,000 refugees and displaced people through distributing food and water and providing cash-for-work, shelter materials and essential non-food items.
Tearfund is also involved in long term work to increase the resilience of communities by improving farming methods and the way people manage water.
However the forecasts are for the crisis to worsen over the coming months, with humanitarian help being needed well into 2012.