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Famine in the Horn of Africa

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Aid Trickles into Hunger-Ravished Kenya

August 6th 2011

Africa Topics - Famine Somalia

Famine is harvesting victims in the Horn of Africa, while children appear to be the most affected. At least ten people have died from hunger-related complications in the Turkana region in northern Kenya. In addition, violent raids originating from Ethiopia claimed another 20 lives in the area.

Catholic bishop Dominic Kimengich told local media, "At least I can confirm that about ten people have lost their lives." Bishop Kimengich also reported that the local people, who are pastoralists, have lost as much as 70 percent of their livestock.

He called on the Kenyan government to ensure that food is urgently dispatched to the currently famine-affected regions in the country. “Some of the affected areas including those within our diocese, Lodwar, are yet to receive relief food that was donated recently,” he said.

Bishop Kimengich commended Kenyans for their immediate response to the food appeal. “We are seeing the hand of God at work,” he said.

In another development, the priest in charge of East Pokot region in the wider Nakuru Diocese, Father Daniel Rono, reported that, “the widely publicized Government relief food is yet to reach the area.”  Making clear how desperate the situation is, Father Rono appealed “Here we have an estimated 150,000 people in dire need of food and we are relying on what is coming from the Catholic Church and World Vision,” he said.

However, over 6,000 children in drought-stricken East Africa will receive a daily meal starting this week, thanks to a charity organization founded by a Catholic Aid worker who was recently declared “CNN Hero.”  Magnus MacFarlane Barrow, Chief Executive of Mary’s Meals, reported that his agency will focus upon the Turkana area of northern Kenya.   “The situation in east Africa has become increasingly desperate, with failed rains leading to dire food and water shortages. What was already a crisis has become an emergency,” he said. Kenya, in addition to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia have been declared drought areas by the UN.

Mary’s Meals will be providing children with one meal daily at school, giving essential nutrition to enable them attend classes. The charity organization will continue to provide the meals during the ongoing August school holidays to this high-risk group.  The new program will bring the total number of children that Mary's Meals reaches in Kenya to more than 24,000.

Barrow founded Mary’s Meals in 2002 after meeting a 14-year-old Malawian boy whose mother was dying of AIDS. When Barrow asked the boy what he wanted from life, his reply was: “To have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”  Today Mary’s Meals works in 16 of the world’s poorest countries, including Sudan, Malawi, Haiti and Liberia, and feeds over 532,000 children.  “We are considering how we can respond to further urgent requests for more help from our friends and partners in Northern Kenya,” said Magnus.

Meanwhile residents of East Pokot benefited from 9 tons of maize brought to the area by a delegation from the Italian nonprofit, the St. Egidio Community, to Nakuru in Kenya. East Pokot is 300 kilometres north of Nairobi and is one of the poorest districts in Kenya. 130 000 people live in this area in conditions of dire poverty. Ninety percent of them are illiterate. Hungryb residents gathered around the rural churches of Kositei and Chemsik where the aid was distributed to one thousand families.

Representatives of the United Nations and the UK admitted at Nairobi conference on July 17 that the international community was slow to act in confronting the drought and famine that have flailed the Horn of Africa region. Unicef executive director Anthony Lake, a former US diplomat and Clinton Administration official, said then that relief should have started arriving much earlier to save the thousands dead and dying of hunger. “Do we blame the international community? Do we blame any particular individuals or groups? No. A combination of many different factors led to this (crisis),” Lake said.

Cutting Edge Senior contributor Martin Barillas also edits Speroforum.com

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