Brethren Funds Jointly Support Relief for Horn of Africa Famine

Refugees and workers for the ACT Alliance pitch tents at the Dadaab camp over the Kenyan border from Somalia. Following many months of drought and famine in the region of the Horn of Africa, with the worst affected areas in southern Somalia, Dadaab and its outlying camps has become the largest refugee settlement in the world now numbering more than a half million people. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance.

Two new grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) and the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) have been given to help hundreds of thousands of people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa. The EDF grant of $40,000 and the GFCF grant of $25,000 follow up on two previous grants in the same amounts made in August.

The region most affected is southern Somalia, which has had the first true famine of the 21st century, caused by the worst drought to hit northeast Africa in 60 years. Areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Eritrea also have experienced severe drought. It is estimated that more than 13 million people are affected.

Not all countries in drought have experienced famine. Famine is defined by several measures of the severity of lack of food, such as more than 3 in 10 children are acutely malnourished, more than 2 of every 10,000 people die in a day, 1 in 5 people are unable to access basic foods. On July 20 the United Nations declared Somalia to be suffering famine. Since then, famine conditions spread into six areas of southern Somalia.

In news shared recently by Ecumenical News International, the movement of migrants has greatly lessened to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, just across the border from Somalia. The change is credited to rainfall, along with increased humanitarian aid, “and military operations inside Somalia.” However, Dadaab continues as the world’s biggest refugee complex incorporating outlying border camps that have drawn Somali refugees, particularly women and children. The Dadaab population now exceeds a half million people.

A coordinator of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) relief effort–which is among ecumenical partners receiving Brethren funding–spoke to ENI days after the UN reported that famine had receded in three areas of Somalia previously described as the worst affected. However, ENI also reported that on Nov. 28 the Al-shabab radical Islamic group banned 16 aid agencies, including some with a Christian focus, from areas it controls in southern Somalia. Banning humanitarian agencies from southern Somalia will worsen the situation for 160,000 severely malnourished children and thousands of people recovering from famine, relief agency officials told ENI.

The EDF and GFCF grants jointly support the work of Church World Service (CWS), the ACT Alliance, and partner organizations such as LWF, which are providing life-saving food, water, and support for hundreds of thousands of people. CWS and partners are working in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia to provide immediate relief, and working toward longer-term food security and nutrition and water initiatives in areas of Kenya in particular. In Dadaab, shipments of food, cooking pots, and hygiene supplies have been provided.

With these two most recent grants, the Church of the Brethren has given more than 10 percent of CWS’s total appeal for $1.2 million for the Horn of Africa crisis. A pre-Thanksgiving e-mail letter from Brethren Disaster Ministries director Roy Winter and GFCF manager Howard Royer called Church of the Brethren congregations to join in the response. “A crisis this big should be on the front pages of our newspapers,” the letter said. “We must not ignore it!”

For more about the Brethren response and an opportunity to give online, go to www.brethren.org/africafamine . Gifts to the EDF and GFCF may be sent by mail to Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. A bulletin insert is at www.brethren.org/bdm/files/africa-bulletin-insert.pdf . A sample letter to lawmakers is at www.brethren.org/bdm/files/advocacy-letter-lawmakers.pdf . An illustrated “Prayer for All Who Are Suffering in East Africa” composed by Glenn Kinsel is at www.brethren.org/bdm/files/prayer-for-east-africa.pdf.

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