Sponsorship helps prevent spread of famine in Kenya

The drought and food crisis has taken a terrible toll. But sponsorship is literally saving the lives of children like Feisal, 12, who still receives regular assistance like food aid, clean water, and medical attention, even after the crisis forced his family to leave their home.

By Kari Costanza and Kenneth Kibet. Photos by Jon Warren.
Published October 27, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

Child sponsorship officer Shukri Mohamed understands the needs of Kenya’s sponsored children like few others can. He used to be one.

Shukri, 30, now works with 3,060 sponsored children in an area affected by the severe drought near the border with Somalia.

It is because of sponsorship that I am here today,” he says.

Nearby is Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp — the largest such camp in the world. Most of its inhabitants are from Somalia. But three sponsored children from Kenya have moved with their families to Dadaab.

The drought has gotten so bad that the children’s families have been driven from their homes — but they continue to be sponsored. World Vision will never abandon them.

Jacob Alemu, a World Vision staff member in the area, says that 60 sponsored children have had to leave their communities with their families.

“Some went to neighboring districts. Seven went to Somalia,” he says. And when they go, they go quickly to find urgently needed grazing land for their livestock.

Finding the children

World Vision interventions such as water trucking are providing life-saving assistance to families affected by the severe drought in the Horn of Africa.Hard times began in earnest last December in eastern Kenya. Years without rainfall had killed livestock and left communities without life-sustaining water.

From December 20 through March 20, World Vision used government trucks to deliver water to 1,600 desperate households. In March, we stepped up our efforts, hiring five vehicles to deliver water to 7,000 households.

When sponsored children began moving out of the area as their families sought places to graze their animals, World Vision began to track them down.

Why? “Our vision is for every child,” says Jacob simply.

‘We don’t want to lose them’

Child development coordinators in Kenya check on the children of the region every 90 days. When their families are not at their homes, the coordinators start asking questions.

When World Vision finds the children, we monitor their well-being.

Today, 100 miles from World Vision’s local office, a team including Shukri and Yusef Bishar, a child development coordinator, have brought food to the three children they’ve located in Dadaab camp.

“If we don’t monitor, we don’t have the information we need,” says Yusuf. “We know where all the registered children are…we don’t want to lose them.”

And it’s not just the sponsored children World Vision checks on — it’s their families as well.

Farah’s family: the final straw

Farah is a man with many worries. He cares for 10 children, a grandchild, and his wife, who has gone mad from experiencing so much loss.Farah Diis Abey cares for 10 children, including a granddaughter whose mother has died. He has moved in with his niece in Dadaab camp after losing all his livestock in Sabule.

“Because of my age, I cannot work, and one of my closest relatives lives here,” he says. “The drought caused this.”

He points to a wound on his head. “My wife became mad,” he says. She beat him and began wandering the town, unable to take care of the children.

Farah’s son, Feisal, 12, is a sponsored child.

“World Vision invested in infrastructure in Sabule,” says Farah. “They built classrooms, teachers’ quarters, and a dining hall.”

Feisal went to a World Vision-built school. His teachers were hired by World Vision and lived in housing built by the organization.

When the drought came, World Vision began to truck water to Sabule. But Farah had lost his ability to cope. In all, he’d lost 200 goats and 100 cattle. His wife’s madness was the final straw. He had to find more help. And World Vision has been there, standing by him and his family.

‘They still care for my child’

Today, the team brought 22 pounds of sugar and beans, 53 pounds of wheat, and three liters of cooking oil. Seeing the packages makes Feisal smile.

“He feels happy because someone is caring for him,” says Farah, who adds that he thought the distance would be too great for World Vision to come.

(Left to right) Feisal, 12, a sponsored child, receives a visit from World Vision's Shukri, who also checks in on Feisal's father, Farah.“Because World Vision came, it shows they still care for my child,” he says. “When they came before, it motivated me to take him back to school.”

Feisal had dropped out of school in the camp, but on an earlier visit, World Vision staff convinced Farah that education is key to Feisal’s future. The boy is now back in school.

World Vision’s presence in Feisal’s life is evident. A World Vision backpack hangs in the family’s temporary dwelling. He still gets letters from his sponsor. His health is regularly monitored.

“I feel like I am loved,” says Feisal. But he and his father both want to go home.

“The drought made our family disintegrate,” Farah says. “Once there is sufficient rainfall, we will go back. We just can’t predict when that is.”

Stop-gap measures

In the long term, sponsorship helps families and whole communities become self-sustaining. However, in the case of disasters, we implement stop-gap measures to meet immediate needs that are critical for survival.

As the story of Farah and Feisal illustrates, these interventions are literally saving lives — preventing at-risk communities from succumbing to famine.

Get involved

Sign up your students or youth group to do the 30 Hour Famine. They’ll learn what it feels like to be hungry for 30 hours, while learning about global hunger and raising funds to care for hungry children around the world.

Pastors: 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.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families like Farah and Feisal, who have lost so much because of the devastating drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Pray that desperately needed assistance will quickly reach those who are suffering most in this region, and pray for rains to come soon.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will multiply up to five times in impact to help deliver assistance like emergency food aid, clean water, agricultural support, medical care, and more to those whose lives are at risk from this crisis.

Sponsor a child in Kenya or Ethiopia — the two sponsorship countries hit hardest by the ongoing drought and food crisis. While providing immediate, life-saving assistance in the midst of disasters like this, your love and support for a child in need will also build the foundation of a sustainable, productive, hopeful future.