Drought relief update from Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia

UPDATED: World Vision continues its response in areas of the Horn of Africa devastated by drought. While conditions have begun to improve in parts of the region, challenges remain for the families who live there and the aid workers who are trying to provide assistance.

By Rachael Boyer and Shawna Templeton. Photo by Jon Warren.
Published January 19, 2012 at 12:00am PST

A severe drought in the Horn of Africa has killed tens of thousands of children and pushed millions of families to the brink of starvation. At the height of the crisis, an estimated 35 percent of all children in the region faced emergency levels of malnutrition.

With the support of generous donors, we are continuing to help save lives and sustain livelihoods through interventions, such as:

>>Distributing therapeutic food, in partnership with the World Food Program, especially for children and women
>>Improving water and sanitation by trucking in water, rehabilitating wells, and providing water storage tanks
>>Providing assistance for refugees and displaced families in camps
>>Supporting agriculture by providing seeds for farmers and food for livestock
>>Promoting practices to make land more drought-resistant

World Vision has provided food, clean water, and medical care to more than 620,000 people in the past three months, but many still remain vulnerable. 

The rainy season has improved conditions in parts of the Horn. However, heavy rains and insecurity continue to hamper humanitarian operations in Kenya and Somalia. In Kenya, some 80,000 people have been displaced by floods. The rain has led to increased incidence of malaria, and the level of need remains high.

Below is a report on our activities in the three most severely impacted countries: Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.


Shelter structures cover the landscape at Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp.In the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya — the largest such camp in the world — World Vision coordinated the distribution and assembly of 5,000 tents provided by ShelterBox.

In late October, cases of cholera began to emerge in the camp. World Vision partnered with other organizations to respond by identifying cholera cases, distributing hygiene kits, constructing latrines, providing hygiene training and potable water, and installing hand-washing facilities.

Our other efforts in Kenya focus on providing displaced families with kits containing items like blankets, pots, and mosquito nets, as well as helping build resilience through projects like water storage systems, planting trees, and setting up irrigation systems.

Fortunately, the number of affected children in World Vision programs in Kenya has significantly declined. There are now about 1,500 affected children — down from more than 10,000 children at the beginning of the crisis response.

Farmers in the northeastern and coast regions who planted drought-tolerant crops are now harvesting their produce. In northeastern Kenya, livestock conditions are good and commanding stable livestock prices. However, in eastern Kenya, most of the crops are withering under the hot sun and farmers fear there may be another crop failure.


In Somalia, lack of rain and soaring food prices have resulted in dangerously high malnutrition rates, especially among young children. According to the United Nations, six months after the declaration of famine, an estimated 250,000 Somalis still live in famine conditions. Four million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance — mostly in the southern regions. 

Rain has brought relief to many parts of Somalia. However, many people will still rely on humanitarian aid for months to come, until they harvest their first crops, and livestock regenerates. World Vision projects that this emergency condition will persist at least until February.

The United Nations has officially downgraded the famine designation in a few regions in Somalia. In some areas, malnutrition was affecting 53 percent of the population. Now that figure has fallen below the famine threshold of 30 percent. However, that good news is tempered by warnings that some 250,000 of an original 750,000 Somalis still face starvation because military battles are preventing food deliveries.

Refugees from Somalia await registration at Kenya's Dadaab camp.World Vision has worked in Somalia since 1992, but in 2010, armed groups demanded that most aid organizations leave the south-central area of the country. We are still able to work in some parts of Somalia, but we cannot access the epicenter of the famine, in part due to lack of security for aid workers. We also serve families in Somalia through partner community organizations.

Please pray that the situation will change, and that World Vision and other organizations will be granted safe access to bring life-saving food and care to the children and families who are in such dire need.

In the areas where we are able to work, we are intervening through cash-for-work programs, water catchments restoration, and new borehole construction.

Due to the onset of the rainy season, cases of waterborne diseases and malaria are increasing. World Vision has stocked up on necessary medicines to meet the expected needs. We are also fast-tracking the process of acquiring and distributing shelter material to protect displaced families.

More than 700,000 Somalis have fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, where we are providing assistance. Kits with non-food items are distributed to families who arrive at refugee camps, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Kits contain items like blankets, a bucket, a cooking pot, and a mosquito net.


In Ethiopia, we are responding with emergency food and seeds for vegetables and other crops; non-food items like blankets, mattresses, and utensils; training for community members in bee-keeping; support for malnourished children with medical complications; and supplementary food for malnourished children under 5, as well as pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

In the Dollo Ado refugee camp, World Vision is building semi-permanent schools and libraries, distributing uniforms and school supplies, and providing teacher training. These schools allow displaced children to continue learning and maintain some sense of a normal life.

Learn more

Read the stories of Fadija and Gaalo — two mothers who are struggling to survive with their children in the midst of drought and famine in Somalia.

Read the latest updates on the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, as well as our response.

Get your church involved in responding to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Check out our resources — such as bulletin inserts, prayer points, social media banners, and more — and equip your congregation to respond with compassion to this emergency.

Four ways you can help

Share. World Vision thanks everyone who has offered support in responding to the drought, food crisis, and famine in the Horn of Africa. Donations and prayers are both greatly appreciated. You can also help by sharing information about this humanitarian emergency with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.

Pray. Please pray specifically for aid organizations like World Vision to reach those who are suffering most — particularly in presently inaccessible areas of Somalia, where famine has ravaged multiple regions. Pray also for rain to continue to bring relief to this parched region of Africa, and for assistance to come to families who are struggling just to survive.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply five times to help provide emergency food, healthcare, and other critical assistance to this suffering part of the world.

Speak out. Urge our legislators to prioritize the needs of those suffering from hunger.