Somalia (MNN) – The United Nations is calling the regions of Somalia, Ethiopia and Northern Kenya the “Triangle of Death.” Due to their proximity to one another, these countries are all dealing with similar severe drought and food insecurities that could impact up to 10 million people throughout the region.
Somalia appears to be worst hit. The United Nations has formally declared a famine in two areas of southern Somalia. Refugees are straggling cross the borders to see if there is better access in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya which are also trying to cope with the emergency.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. will provide an additional $28 million in aid. On the surface, the issue seems to be lack of food. However, for those groups trying to help, the issue is more the lack of access to food which is available.
Declaring an actual “famine” brings to mind pictures of starvation and emaciated children. It strikes the emotional heart of a donor to try and alleviate suffering. Aid groups therefore are careful with their use of the word because of potential desensitization to the crisis.
Once that bell has been rung, though, what is clear is that for those starving, defining “famine” or “food emergency” makes little difference in living through the day. Finding sustenance is all that matters.
That’s where Food For the Hungry comes in. Shep Owen with FH says they implemented some long-term livestock programs in Northern Kenya two years ago because of the cyclical nature of drought. Other programs covered livelihood development, and water and sanitation.
These programs had time to mature, and they could respond to the coming trouble. “The reality is that the famine has been coming in Somalia for a while. I mean, there were pretty clear signs, even six months ago, that it would likely move this way.”
Sales from those were reinvested in the local economy and the funds served as a coping mechanism to keep food access open for these communities. As a result, says Owen, “The investments from U.S. AID over the last two years in northern Kenya have allowed the communities that we’ve been working with to withstand this drought in ways that they wouldn’t have been prior to that work.” Owen adds that it proves this approach works. “It’s possible to address immediate lifesaving needs with long-term approaches that don’t undercut the development of the areas.”
Seeing that success duplicated during an immediate crisis might be a challenge. Somali insurgents are still causing problems for those trying to help, despite promises to allow foreign aid groups in. The *Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab’s policies have kept lawlessness alive. That, in turn, prevents humanitarian programs from getting started. Owen notes, “Our team had asked us as well if we were contemplating opening programs in Somalia again, and I indicated that unless you are a really massive organization that can provide security, it’s a very perilous place to try to implement programs.”
Al Shabaab has also been wreaking havoc outside of Somalia’s borders, which creates more hesitation, says Owen. “Even in Kenya, we’ve had staff that were in our consortiums that were abducted in northern Kenya by the same group.”
Pray that God would continue to use Food for the Hungry’s multiple outreaches to bring relief, hope and the right kind of help to vulnerable children, families and communities. Pray for wisdom and strength for their Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and staff in affected countries. “Jesus would ask us to be right there with the widows and the orphans–those who are hungry. This is doing what the Lord would have us do, and through God’s sovereign grace, we trust that His will is seen and done.”
To join Food for the Hungry in responding, please visit: http://www.fh.org/component/content/article/144-landing-pages/1033