Remember the Poor in East Africa

As the drought in East Africa deepens, men, women and children die from lack of water and food.  In Dadaab, on the Somali border, hundreds of thousands are massing, severely testing the resources of international aid agencies.  If you want to help, CRS is a good place to start.  Their website makes it easy to donate; this summary by Michael Hill comes from their HQ in Maryland, and includes an interview with CRS Africa Team Leader Brian Gleeson.  (Photo by Laura Sheahen of CRS.)

"Rains last fall failed completely," says CRS Africa Team Leader Brian Gleeson. "And spring rains earlier this year were erratic and weak. As a result, farmers have experienced horrible harvests and pastoralists are seeing their livestock dying off."

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This drought—it's one of the driest years in the region since 1950-51—has combined with increased food costs to put more than 11 million people across the Horn of Africa in need of humanitarian assistance. Many are in Somalia, though most are in Kenya and Ethiopia, countries where CRS has worked for decades.

Much of CRS' work in these countries focuses on water and agriculture programs that have helped alleviate the growing drought conditions over the past several months. In Ethiopia, the CRS-led Joint Emergency Operations Plan is ramping up; now feeding 400,000 people, it aims to serve 1 million later this month.

Other CRS staffers, including the Nairobi-based Emergency Response Team, are working with Caritas Internationalis, government authorities and other partners to design further responses. "This drought comes as prices for staple foods are increasing, in some cases more than doubling in the past year," Gleeson says.

Many already spend a huge percentage of their income on food. A rise in prices pushes them over the edge. "These price increases strike particularly hard in urban areas where people must purchase all their food," Gleeson says. "In non-drought conditions, rural farmers often benefit from rising food prices because they can sell their crops for higher prices. But right now they have no crops to sell due to the drought. So they and their families are also hurting."

Gleeson says the crisis will likely worsen before it eases with the October harvest. "But many areas had very poor spring rains, so the harvest will not be enough," he said. "And if the fall rains are not strong-or fail again-then this crisis is going to get much, much worse."

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