Severe drought in East Africa is causing a hunger crisis that’s one of the most serious the world has ever seen. Famine conditions already exist in parts of South Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia, and three more countries—Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia—face the same problem. Famine in six countries at the same time has never happened before, and more than 20 million lives are at risk in coming months.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is responding in these and other countries where drought conditions and food shortages are reaching critical levels. In Kenya, we met a woman named Penna. She and her husband, Muli, have five children, including a nine-month-old baby named Grace. The Kimwele family lives in a village called Zalani, and like many others who live there, they depend on their farm for both food and income.
The drought that has blanketed so much of Kenya means they can’t do any farming. This is disastrous for Penna and Muli, who now have no way to feed their children and no way to earn money.
“My children cry when there is no food,” Penna says. “The drought has taken our lives, and there’s nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to feed your children!” Before the drought, the family could depend on their farm. When the rains were good they could count on crops of beans, maize and sorghum. Now it has been a year since they’ve seen a harvest and it will take a miracle to grow the beans that Penna just planted.
The family is on their own with no relatives nearby. Sometimes they can borrow food from a nearby shop, but they’re down to eating no more than one meal a day to make what little food they have last.
Hunger like this is overwhelming. Penna is breast-feeding nine-month-old Grace, but her own hunger means she has very little milk to nourish the baby. The older children walk an hour-and-a-half each way to school, but there’s no food there either. The long walk, concentrating in class and even playtime are difficult for a child with an empty belly.
“I am so worried for my children. I can’t stop thinking about what I can do to get food for them. I can’t stop thinking about how I should go about it,” Penna said.
ADRA is making a difference in this hunger crisis by providing emergency food for Penna’s family and more than 10,000 others in Kenya alone. It’s also providing food and other vital resources in several other countries that have been affected by drought and hunger, including school lunch programs, so that children can stay healthy and continue their learning.
While food is one of the major concerns during this crisis, there’s also the need to ensure that families have access to safe water. This is one thing Penna doesn’t have to worry about anymore. ADRA helped the community drill a borehole near her home in the village.
Having this source of water so close to home means Penna doesn’t have to spend hours in the hot sun every day fetching small amounts of water from what’s left of the nearby dirty, vanishing river. She can spend her time finding work to help her family. The bacteria in the water they used to drink caused the children to get sick often, but now they’re much healthier and don’t miss school because of water-related illness.
While there’s hope, this crisis won’t go away quickly, and it won’t disappear at all if people don’t step up to help. Some of the countries affected by the drought are also impacted by unrest, violence, even war, which makes it even more difficult to reach those who need us most.
A food crisis on top of a humanitarian crisis is a catastrophe that will cost millions of lives within months. You read that correctly—months, not years. But we can stop these deaths! ADRA is already responding, and we’re eager to have you join us.
To find out more about ADRA’s East Africa Famine Appeal, or to make a donation, visit adra.org.au/famine (Australia) or adra.org.nz (New Zealand).