For several months now, the East African countries of Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya have been experiencing the devastating impacts of prolonged drought. Over 26 million people in the affected regions are now severely food insecure.
Trócaire has been engaged in a relief effort with fellow humanitarian agencies, funding partners and local organisations to support the most vulnerable and worst impacted.
In July, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland organised a nationwide church fundraising appeal, which coupled with other fundraising efforts, has raised €2.4 million so far to support Trócaire’s response. This figure will rise over the coming weeks as parishes continue to make their returns. Once all Diocesan returns are in, we are hopeful that total donations to our emergency response in east Africa will be in the region of €5m.
Those funds, and others secured from donors such as Irish Aid and the UK government are being channelled into the provision of emergency food aid, malnutrition treatment, healthcare, livelihoods protection, and water and sanitation facilities.
We have humanitarian relief efforts in some of the worst affected regions of each of the four countries, and plan to deliver significant additional aid through our local partners on the ground. We are hopeful that generous donations collected from the public will rise to meet this challenge.
Combating hunger and malnutrition
In each of the four countries we are working in, children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of the drought. Tackling malnutrition is vital in our response, especially to avoid permanent damage to young children’s health.
Idle Abdi Mohammed is given her weekly supply of Plumpy Sup for her daughter Zaynab by the nutritionist at Bula Hawa health centre, Somalia. Photo: Amunga Eshuchi, May 2017
In Kenya, we are supporting our partners the Diocese of Lodwar in Turkana, at the epicentre of the crisis, to deliver supplementary feeding of high energy nutritional food to thousands of young children.
In Somalia, where we have an established presence in the hard-hit Gedo region, we are scaling up our efforts to reach as many children as we can with vital nutrition support through our health facilities there. We have also been delivering treatment to thousands of patients affected by the recent outbreaks of cholera which have claimed many lives.
Millions of people have lost everything to the drought – their crops have been destroyed, animals have died, and they have had to sell their remaining assets so they can buy food to survive.
Many livestock animals have died due to disease and shortage of pasture and water.
The carcass of a dead camel in Nayuu in northern Kenya. Pastoralist people are seeing their animals perish because of a lack of water and grazing due to the prolonged drought. Photo: David O’Hare, May 2017.
At the same time, due to short supply, the price of food has soared.
One of our response strategies is to protect livelihoods, particularly by providing vaccinations, veterinary care and feed for the surviving animals of farmers in affected areas.
In the Borena and South Omo regions of Ethiopia, it is estimated that up to 50 per cent of animals have died due to the drought conditions.
At time of writing 236,722 animals owned by 85,305 individuals have received treatment and vaccination services to keep them alive and healthy to protect their owners’ livelihoods against the terrible shocks they are enduring.
In the Diocese of Meru in Kenya we have also supported the vaccination of 10,000 livestock animals.
Water and sanitation
Access to clean drinking water is extremely compromised throughout the affected regions. In Ethiopia alone, it is estimated that 10.5 million people do not have access to safe drinking water.
We are supporting over 47,000 people there with water projects, including the building of water points and boreholes. Similarly we are working to provide water and sanitation facilities, which are particular important in stopping the spread of potentially fatal diseases like cholera, in communities in South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia.
Looking to the future
The number of people affected by this terrible, underreported crisis in East Africa continues to rise. And so we must continue to do all that we can to support them, particularly the most vulnerable among them – women and children, those with disabilities and the elderly.
Camp for the internally displaced at Dollow, Somalia. Photo: Amunga Eshuchi, May 2017
Additionally we must call on national governments and international bodies not only to scale up their own efforts, but also to consider the long-term future for people living through this current crisis.
This prolonged drought period, caused by consecutive failed or limited rains, is a direct result of climate change. It is highly likely that weather patterns are now altered for good, making old ways of life and the predictably of the rains a thing of the past.
We would like to thank everyone who has donated to support our humanitarian efforts in East Africa, and ask that you continue to show your solidarity to the millions of people living in such precarious and difficult conditions.
We would also like to thank the government and other funders who are supporting our response in the four countries, these include Irish Aid, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), Caritas New Zealand, and CORDAID.
Support our work in East Africa