Extreme hunger in drought-ravaged East Africa

Unrelenting drought in the Horn of Africa has created a massive humanitarian emergency. Hunger, malnutrition, lack of clean water, and dying livestock are threatening lives in a region that is already unstable.

Published July 12, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

Years of unrelenting drought in many parts of this region have thrown the Horn of Africa into a humanitarian crisis that is threatening the lives of millions of families, primarily in the countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Children under 5 are particularly vulnerable. Lack of food, malnutrition, access to water, and the general health of livestock are key concerns.

"In Somalia alone, water prices have increased as much as 300 percent in the past two months, and families are selling their assets and going into debt just to get clean water and food for their families," said Chris Smoot, program director for World Vision in Somalia.

"With these kinds of conditions, we are likely to see an increase in malnutrition rates and epidemic diseases, which will further complicate an already dangerous situation."

An ongoing crisis

Inconsistent rains over the past year have resulted in severe drought for both rural and urban communities. In Somalia's Puntland, many families are suffering from the seventh consecutive failed rainy season. Most of the water catchments have dried up, forcing people and animals to consume water from the same areas and increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.

As drought conditions continue, migrating pastoral communities and dying livestock will likely plunge these food-insecure communities into a life-threatening situation. These conditions are expected to continue for the next several months.

'Each day is a fight to survive'

In the Turkana region, a supplementary feeding program is the only thing that can keep these children in school. Some of them must take their rations home to share with their hungry families. Photo: ©2011 Lucy Murunga/World VisionPrior to this growing crisis, the United Nations estimated that 2.4 million Somalis required emergency assistance as a result of the civil unrest and food insecurity in their country. Adding additional pressure to the situation are the internally displaced people from south-central Somalia who continue to seek refuge in Puntland.

Pressure to find jobs and increased needs for pasture, water, and sanitation facilities are putting growing strains on the few existing resources.

"We are particularly concerned about those families struggling in south-central Somalia, the hardest-hit area in the region," added Smoot. "Right now, those communities have little to no access to humanitarian relief. Each day is a fight to survive, and it will only get worse as this drought continues."

In Turkana, Kenya, and areas of Ethiopia, World Vision is already responding to the crisis by distributing food rations to communities.

In Somalia, World Vision will focus its efforts on Puntland, implementing cash-for-work programs to improve water sources, repairing and constructing water boreholes, distributing goats to pastoral communities, and establishing village- and regional-level disaster risk-reduction committees to help build the resilience of drought-affected communities.

Ways you can help

Please pray for those who are suffering from this prolonged drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa — a region already reeling from extreme poverty and instability. Pray that those in greatest need would find comfort and support quickly.

Make a one-time gift to our Horn of Africa Food Crisis Fund. Your donation will help provide emergency food and care to children and families suffering from hunger and malnutrition, as the worst drought in 60 years rages on.

Give monthly to provide support for children affected by hunger worldwide. Your monthly contribution will help bring assistance like emergency food aid, clean water, agricultural assistance, nutritional training, and more to those in greatest need.

Sponsor a child in East Africa. Your love and support for a child in need will help provide essentials that will equip him or her to better cope with disasters, like the ongoing drought and food crisis.