Famine in East Africa

As the famine affecting almost 11 million people in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia in one of the worst droughts in 60 years continues to worsen, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta has launched an appeal for famine relief and humanitarian assistance in Eastern Africa.

“The extent of this humanitarian crisis of absolutely out of proportion to anything we could do individually or even as a country, but inaction is not an option,” said JRS Malta Director Fr Joseph Cassar. “It is a massive displacement of people facing starvation. Others who are too weak to move or to be moved just stay behind and die,” he added.

While the Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia are the worst hit by the famine, millions of people in southeast Ethiopia and northern Kenya are also facing hunger. In Somalia itself, the current crisis is the consequence of three overlapping and intersecting problems: extreme climate-induced drought; the lack of a functioning central government in Somalia; and the inability of aid agencies to gain access to south central Somalia controlled by the al-Shabab militant group. This is compounded by rising food prices throughout the region, hurting already vulnerable populations with further devastating losses.

Countries in the region are putting measures in place to cope with the situation. Kenya recently announced the extension of one of three Dadaab camps for new refugees; while Ethiopia is currently expanding the Dollo Ado camp in the southeast of the country. As thousands of hungry men, women and children continue to trek across the desert from Somalia into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, the needs will certainly increase.

The Eastern Africa Province of the Jesuits has initiated a Famine Relief Project. The aim of this project is to provide relief materials for a targeted group of the most vulnerable persons in collaboration with religious congregations and dioceses in the worst-hit areas of northern Kenya (Kitui, Turkana, Eastern Pokot, Markwet, Lodwar and others). Relief food items such as maize, beans, millet, sorghum, soya, cooking oil and nutrifit will be purchased and distributed to families in these areas through a network of parishes and schools.

In Ethiopia, JRS is in advanced negotiations with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to begin providing psychosocial and education services in Dollo Ado camp, on the border with Somalia, where almost 2,000 Somalis have been arriving every day for the past few weeks.

“The newly created fund responds to the willingness of several people in Malta who do not wish to look on helplessly while such a devastating situation unfolds,” said Fr Cassar. “Financial contributions to this appeal will not only provide much needed funds, food and services but will also strengthen the global conscience to respond promptly to the extreme suffering of fellow human beings,” he added.

, to JRS Malta, 50 Triq ix-Xorrox, Birkirkara  BKR 1631 or by depositing money in one of these accounts:Anyone wishing to support this appeal can do so by sending a cheque made out to

BOV:  JRS – East Africa Famine – Ac. No.
HSBC: JRS – East Africa Famine – Ac.  No.

 For further information please contact:
Fr Joseph Cassar, S.J. – 7927 0409

Background information:
Famine is declared when acute malnutrition affects more than one in three children in a given population. One in three children in southern Somalia is currently malnourished. Many have died. Adult women and men are also facing hunger.

The current famine situation is likely to get worse before it can get any better.

Cereal prices in the region are at all all-time high. Internally displaced people who had escaped from the Somali capital Mogadishu are getting caught in the cross-fire as they try to reach camps where they can obtain food.

Animal herds are dying due to drought and lack of food: for many people in the region, they are the only source of food.

More and more people will be displaced in some of the world’s poorest countries if the causes of global climate change are not immediately addressed.

Between 1,500 and 2,000 Somalis have been crossing the borders into both Kenya and Ethiopia every day since the beginning of July. These two countries, already struggling to help their own affected populations are putting in extra measures to help the newly arrived.

However, there are limits to what these countries can do as they are already seriously affected themselves by the drought. There are currently more than 750,000 Somali refugees living in eastern Africa, mostly in Kenya and Ethiopia. Jesuits – mostly African – work in 35 different countries in Africa and Madagascar, side by side with many male and female colleagues in projects ranging from education to development as well as in spiritual formation.

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