The hunger crisis in East Africa persists despite rain finally arriving in some regions.
‘Short, heavy rains arriving at the beginning of the rainy season in the region have been more destructive than helpful’ explains Tearfund’s Disaster Response Lead, Elizabeth Myendo. ‘They have caused flash floods in most places that have not had rain for more than four successive years and are leading to more livestock deaths, in addition to deaths resulting from the drought. Unfortunately, we cannot say that the rain will improve the hunger crisis in the region,’ says Elizabeth.
‘We have been waiting and praying for a breakthrough in this intense period of drought, but now that the rain is here, people are facing new challenges. The ground was so parched that it has been unable to absorb the runoff water. More than 800 households have been displaced by floodwater and many roads made impassable. The few remaining livestock weakened by the prolonged drought have also been killed in the floods.’‘When the rains come after a prolonged dry period, worms emerge from underground where they have been hibernating. When livestock feed on these worms, they die. In one of the villages in Northern Kenya, one person lost 100 cows overnight.’ says Elizabeth. ‘Pastoralist communities depend on their livestock as their only source of livelihood and for economic security. In this regard, losing a herd is both financial ruin and extremely difficult psychologically.’
In the semi-arid region of Marsabit, 80% of livestock had already perished due to the drought. For instance, Mrs. Fatouma Mudahsora, a recipient of a cash transfer via mobile phone organised by Tearfund’s partner the Anglican Development Services lost all her goats. The cash transfer assistance was offered as part of a programme to provide ‘stop-gap’ assistance to help 330 families buy essential food in recent months. This support saw them through the leanest months of the most prolonged and intense period of drought in their living memory.
In acknowledging the support, Mrs. Fatouma said, “I’ve received the cash transfer to my phone two times. I have spent the money on buying food items. But the money is not enough [to support everyone]. I have four children and another child that I have adopted. I couldn’t use the money to help others. We lost all of our livestock. My husband now works as a casual labourer, but there are not many opportunities for him.” She further stated that, “In the past when everything was normal, someone could slaughter an animal and the meat could be shared with the whole village. But currently no one is able to help each other,’ explains Fatouma.
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Notes for Editors:
People in East Africa are suffering first hand the brutal effects of the climate crisis. Seasonal rains failed for five seasons in a row - six in some places - making it the driest period for 70 years. Some rains have come, but in such short, heavy bursts they are creating heavy flooding, leading to even more suffering to the communities in Northern Kenya. Hundreds of the precious few surviving livestock have been swept away by the floods. The current forecast by the Kenya Meteorological Department is that the rains will be sudden, strong and short, in many ways the worst kind of rain for crop production.
On a recent needs assessment visit to the region, Fatouma was among a number of women who expressed fear that people, especially the elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and young children, would die if the sufficient rains didn’t come this year. Spring rains are due now in northern Kenya with the rainy season usually occurring in March and April. Fatouma’s village has now had some rainfall.
More than 36 million people have been affected by the worst droughts East Africa has seen in forty years.
Of those, more than 22 million are suffering acute food insecurity and malnutrition - meaning they simply do not have enough food to survive. More than five million of those are children.
Women and girls are facing the terrible brunt of this crisis - longer, more dangerous journeys to find water and the number of child marriages more than doubling.
The whole world is seeing drastic price rises. Imagine how devastating this is in a region where millions of families already can’t find even one meal a day.
In our long experience, rigorously monitored cash grants give people dignity to decide what they need most to survive, whether that’s food, shelter or livestock. They also support the local economy rather than further reliance on increasingly expensive imports.