CWS responding in drought-stricken areas of Kenya

It has been an achingly difficult year in the Eastern Horn of Africa - 2011 has been the driest period in the region since 1995, with the lowest level of rainfall in 60 years. As a result, food security has deteriorated for most households in all arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya and neighboring countries.

women in Kenya

Women from Kalimbui village, north east Kenya, have a chat beside the sandy pond that has rescued them from the worst of the drought.  The dam raises the water enough that some water can be extracted every day, saving them a lot of time which they use instead to weave and collect firewood for sale.  Agriculture is no longer a food source.  Without it, women must now earn a living in other ways.
Photo by Laurie MacGregor, ACT/NCA

By Chris Herlinger/CWS

It has been an achingly difficult year in the Eastern Horn of Africa – 2011 has been the driest period in the region since 1995, with the lowest level of rainfall in 60 years.

As a result, food security – the access and availability to food – has deteriorated for most households in all arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya and neighboring countries.

Grazing land has dried up, and communities cannot survive any longer without external support.

"The natural resilience of people here has been stretched and become much more fragile with the recurring cycle of disasters that have affected them over the last 10 years," said Sammy Mutua of CWS's East Africa staff.

Mutua and his CWS colleagues are working on a response centered on the Mwingi and Kibwezi areas of Kenya, by providing emergency food relief, water tankering and long-term disaster risk reduction programs.

Church World Service is also supporting the response of other ACT Alliance members in Kenya, as well as neighboring countries, including Somalia and Ethiopia.

ACT members have determined that Somalia will be the largest area of focus for the overall ACT response in terms of the amount of assistance.  That's because Somalia is a country "where little other than NGO support will exist and the situation of folks there is the most dire," said Donna Derr, who heads CWS's development and humanitarian assistance program.

"CWS will only be directly responding in Kenya, but my hope is to generate enough support so that we can contribute to the efforts of ACT members responding in Somalia and Ethiopia as well," she said.

Still, that is not to minimize the problems in Kenya.  While the current emergency in Kenya is most severely felt in the northern and eastern parts of the country, areas reporting serious food deficits include southeastern marginal districts.  The emergency is expected to spread rapidly in the country as short rains will not begin until October and November and increasing food prices cause country-wide food shortages.

The drought is having a severe impact across the region.  In addition to the food shortages brought on by failed crops, food prices, particularly of maize – the staple food of Kenya and other countries – have increased dramatically.  The drought is affecting water supplies, livestock health and leading to increased incidences of conflict.  High rates of malnutrition are reported in most of the affected areas, at levels above the emergency threshold.

In all, more than 10 million people in East Africa are affected by the drought.  In Kenya the total number of those estimated to be affected is up to 3.5 million; 2.4 million are thought to be food insecure in drought-affected areas.

"This desperate situation in Kenya comes at a time where there are a number of crisis in the world," said Dan Tyler, CWS Africa regional coordinator.  "This particular crisis highlights the need to support and empower communities in disaster prone areas to find new ways to build resilience in order to ensure they have a sustained quality of life."

HOW TO HELP:  Donate online, by phone: 1-800-297-1516; or by mail: Church World Service, 28606 Phillips Street, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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