Despite famine, there are bright spots in the Horn of Africa

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Ethiopia (MNN) – Food security has deteriorated for famine-wracked Somalis trapped in their own country, but it has improved for those who have fled to Ethiopia.

John Connelly with Food for the Hungry (FH) explains, “The famine is really not occurring in Ethiopia. The government has taken steps to address the famine because they saw it coming early on. It is a famine in Somalia, but people are crossing the border where they can get access to food in Ethiopia.”

What’s the difference since Ethiopia and Somalia are in the same region? “Where there’s not a sitting government in Somalia, the situation is much more drastic, and therefore that’s why we have the influx of refugees.”

In other words, Connelly says, “The drought is a natural disaster, but a famine is a political disaster.” FH teams say there’s a food gap predicted to last anywhere from four to six months. They’re already in month four and starting to see some relief. That’s not to say the situation in Ethiopia isn’t serious. There is a drought–the worst in 60 years hitting the region.

Connelly says they’re not seeing the devastation of famine in northeast Kenya* and southeast Ethiopia* as much as the worst-hit areas. “There is a food crisis: there are 4.2 million Ethiopians that are in need of food aid. But as far as it being a famine, there is no starvation that is taking place within Ethiopia because the government has been proactive.”

That’s good news for the Horn of Africa which is also facing lean months ahead. And Connelly says their projects in Ethiopia are a beacon of hope. “Corn is almost ready to harvest within the next month, and things, at least in Ethiopia, are looking very positive.”

How do their projects have a harvest? Connelly says, “Most of the people we’re working with are rural farmers who have small farm plots. One of the big things that we’ve been doing is getting them improved seed as well as access to water.”

Food for the Hungry has been working in Kenya since 1976 and in Ethiopia since 1984. Their teams have responded to emergency situations in the past and have also helped the people in this difficult region build sustainable approaches to survive seasonal challenges like the drought.

FH has already seen how dependent the future of the region is on water access. “The next thing that we would like to implement is doing more types of water projects. Water is the main issue. If people have access to water and can irrigate their farms, then they’re prevented from falling into this food crisis in the first place,” explains Connelly.

In the meantime, “We just plan to continue with another three months’ distribution, just to ensure that we’ve met that food gap until the corn has been harvested and farmers either sell it or store it so they don’t lose it in post-harvest storage.”

These are Gospel opportunities. FH teams are working to provide food for the stomach, food for the mind, and food for the heart. Connelly explains, “Through our food aid packages going out, we’re able to respond to physical needs. However, we also want to engage with food for the mind: that is, transforming people’s purposes in life: ‘Where am I going after I die?’ And then, also food for the heart: that means simply, ‘How do my actions affect my community?'”

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, too, that God would provide for the needs of millions of drought-affected people.

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About Brittani Curtis

I joined Food for the Hungry in 2008 and haven't stopped learning! I am passionate about seeing people around the world (here, there and everywhere) fulfill their God-given potential. And, on good days and bad days, I cling to the promise of Revelation 20, in which Christ declares that HE will make all things new!