HOTLINE - week of August 1, 2011

CWS water and food strategies in East Africa ramp up as drought devastates communities; Celebrating 65 years and assistance to refugees.

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A Somali woman who arrived in recent weeks at the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya walks with her child to a new extension of the world's largest refugee settlement.
Photo: APaul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

CWS water and food strategies in East Africa ramp up as drought devastates communities

Church World Service is continuing its response in the Eastern Horn of Africa as drought worsens.

More than 10 million people are affected by the drought: failed crops, dead livestock, increased food prices. Food security has deteriorated for most households in arid and semi-arid regions in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia and other countries in the region. 

"The impact of climate change is here with us and it is hitting the most vulnerable people in the world the hardest," Sammy Matua, of the CWS East Africa office, says.

CWS's response includes both immediate relief and longer-term food and nutrition security and water initiatives in Kenya.

In Kenya, CWS-implemented assistance is focused on the Mwingi and Kibwezi areas and will include immediate relief (for 5 months): family food packages, Unimix nutritional supplements for children under 5, and water storage tanks for drought-affected communities.  Longer-term efforts include food and nutrition security, livelihoods efforts and permanent water initiatives.

Matua said CWS is intent on following international guidelines for quality. “Food aid should be provided in an empowering way, so that it does not continue a cycle of dependency. Emergency food assistance is needed but we need to… support recovery and rehabilitation interventions that can reverse the impact of climate change as well,” Matua says. “If you provide communities with the skills, materials and means to conserve water and have them construct water retaining structures that can slow down water runoffs whenever there is a shower or storm, that will go a long way in reversing the impacts of drought.”

While CWS’s main response focus is in Kenya, it is also supporting efforts of fellow members of the ACT Alliance who are responding in Somalia and Ethiopia.

In Somalia, CWS is supporting partner Norwegian Church Aid in providing emergency food, non-food items (shelter, clothing, hygiene materials), psychosocial support and water and sanitation. In Ethiopia, CWS is supporting efforts by the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Commission, a long-time CWS partner.

CWS, along with other members of the ACT Kenya Forum, are targeting some 97,526 households: food aid for 5 months to 14,000 households; monthly food vouchers for 5 months to 25,500 households; a 5-month supply of fresh drinking water for domestic use for 36,000 households; and water for livestock for 47,500 households. Also planned: de-worming more than 100,000 cattle.

At Dadaab camp in Kenya, which currently houses some 358,000 refugees, about 1,300 refugees are arriving daily from Somalia. CWS is supporting emergency and post-emergency work by Lutheran World Federation.

Monthly ration size per person: 15 kg wheat, 1.5 kg of beans, as well as cooking oil. Children under 5, pregnant and lactating women are being prioritized to receive 1.5 kg of supplementary food.

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Celebrating 65 years and assistance to refugees

UN officials, former refugees and CWS staff gathered on July 21 at the Museum of the City of New York to celebrate CWS’s 65th anniversary and its long service and dedication to refugee protection.  The event also marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Stories of refugee resettlement were common during the event. The Rev. John McCullough, CWS executive director and CEO, said the experiences of immigrants and refugees reflect an underlying philosophy of CWS -- that partnership and working at solutions begins at the grassroots.

"Church World Service has always been about being good neighbors and improving the quality of life for the most vulnerable. It matters little the origin of one’s name or the place from where one comes. It is all about the spirit of welcome and acceptance, and the roar of the crowd acknowledging that, you are now one of us."

Erol Kekic, the director of CWS's Immigration and Refugee Program, said, "CWS is today a global voluntary agency well equipped to respond to natural and human induced disasters, offer refugee assistance and work to alleviate hunger domestically and abroad. Since 1946, CWS has helped resettle 500,000 refugees into the US and changed countless lives abroad."

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