Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The rotting carcasses of dead animals were a sight common to the desert regions of Northeastern Kenya, or at least that’s what I thought. I viewed the desert around me with the open, accepting eyes of a visitor; I assumed that all I saw was normal for the area. I thought the dead animals on the side of the road were to be expected in the harsh life of the desert. The tone of my missionary host’s voice told me that the sight should not have been so common. He was driving his Land Rover at 80 kilometers an hour beneath a blazing equatorial sun on the sandy road to Dadaab. “Oh,” he sighed as we passed another heap of bones and skin, “they’re everywhere, it’s really bad.”

Partnering with Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM), two other Tyndale students and I spent four weeks in May and June in Kenya. We spent three of those four weeks in Dadaab, Northeastern Province, Kenya. What I didn’t know before we left was that we would be entering Northeastern Province at a time of crisis. Dadaab is less than 100 kilometers from the Somali border and it has become a center for UN activity in the region. The UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) had three refugee camps around Dadaab when I was there in June; since I’ve left a fourth has opened. There are nearly 400,000 refugees in the Dadaab camps and over 1000 people arriving daily. The U.N. estimates that 3.7 million people are “in crisis” and over 1,800 people are dying every day in Somalia alone.

The nomads and desert dwellers of the region are dependent on rain in ways the citizens of water-rich nations like Canada cannot begin to understand. We witnessed dozens of people waiting by the few watering stations in the town for their chance to get water. People would come from miles around with donkey carts and yellow plastic jugs to use the borehole wells that the UN had drilled.

On our way out of Dadaab we passed a traditional nomadic family heading down the middle of the desert road. A father, mother, grandmother, a couple of children, three donkeys and two camels carrying all of the family’s worldly possessions. The donkeys had the ubiquitous yellow plastic jugs tied to their backs and the camels were towers of bundles and sticks. We came to a slow stop to offer the family some water. They watched us suspiciously at first but when we brought out the jug full of clean, clear water the grandmother ran over to us eagerly. What we offered was so easy for us to part with but so crucial for her and her family to survive.

- By Mark Fisk, B.A. English student at Tyndale University College

If you would like to aid those affected by the drought please see the CBM Kenya Drought Relief page or call them at 905-821-3533. CBM is helping orphans, widows, the elderly, peasant farmers and young children in Kenya. Also, they are partnering with other organizations and locals to distribute food aid.

Donations made to CBM between July 6 to September 16 for East Africa drought relief will be eligible for matching through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). An application will be made to CIDA for matching funds concluding the window for donations allotted by the government.

To donate to UNHCR or an affiliated NGO please see their Canadian website.


» View more news