Kenya drought worsening; More assistance needed quickly

Baltimore, March 8, 2006 - The food shortage caused by a drought in parts of Kenya, where Lutheran World Relief and partners are working, is quickly reaching a crisis stage, with the World Food Program warning of "absolutely catastrophic" consequences if aid is not delivered to some areas in a matter of days.
"The international community must wake up to the reality of this growing crisis before it is too late," says Kirsten Engebak, area representative for Kenya, Somalia and Uganda for Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). NCA is one of five member agencies of the global aid alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT), including LWR, responding to the current crisis in Kenya. Engebak recently returned from a two-day visit to northern Kenya where she witnessed first-hand the extent of the crisis unfolding across the Horn of Africa.

"I was prepared for the worst - but what I saw almost cannot be described," Engebak said, emphasizing that the drought was causing extensive suffering and loss of life across the region.

"The situation is terrible. We are facing a disaster," Engebak says. She reports that animals are dying by the thousands, and their carcasses lie scattered across the countryside. According to reports she received, it is estimated that around 60 percent of livestock in the area has already died. "More, if not all, remaining animals will die soon if help does not arrive quickly. There is absolutely nothing to eat whatsoever - for livestock or humans," she adds.

ACT issued an appeal for $2.4 million to its members around the world on February 2 to respond to the drought. LWR, one of the five ACT members implementing the appeal, is increasing access to water by constructing and rehabilitating wells and dams, and providing drought-resistant seeds, farming tools and agricultural training to many of the most vulnerable households. LWR is also establishing community seed banks and training community members to manage them.

Engebak's visit to communities showed how urgently this assistance is needed. "I heard stories of families who once owned 300 animals but were now left with only two or three. This was more the norm than the exception. I did not see one blade of grass or one healthy tree during my journey of 230 kilometers through the desert. With no food for the animals, there is also no food for the pastoralists who mainly live on milk from the goats and camels. They are starving," reports Engebak.

The ACT members participating in the ACT appeal for Kenya are: the Anglican Church of Kenya, Church World Service, The Lutheran World Federation Kenya/Sudan program, Lutheran World Relief, and Norwegian Church Aid.