International Rescue Committee (IRC)

2011: Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa

The International Rescue Committee strives to meet the challenges of new and ongoing humanitarian crises in our increasingly restive world. Each day this week, I will share an example of the extraordinary assistance that IRC supporters helped us to deliver in 2011.  First, an update on the Horn of Africa crisis:

The current drought in East Africa is the worst in 60 years, placing more than 13 million people in urgent need of food, water, and basic shelter.  Its origins were in a lengthy period of poor rains that led to massive crop failure, livestock loss, and soaring food prices.  Famine soon followed, gripping portions of southern Somalia; some 250,000 lives remain at risk in that country alone.

In photos taken by the IRC’s Peter Biro, published internationally as well as on the IRC website, the faces of anguish, exhaustion, and pain are haunting.  Yet they also serve to summon us to higher levels of conviction.  Especially unsettling are the images of babies and young children, their bodies withered by lack of nutrition and their faces listless with debility.

The IRC, which has worked in the region since the1990s, began responding to the emerging crisis at the start of last year.  Today, we deliver lifesaving aid to hundreds of thousands of people in some of the most desperate locations across a three country region.

 ■  In Kenya:  Reports of  families from Somalia, abject and exhausted after walking for weeks to find sustenance, are true.  Many have made their way to the Dadaab camp complex, the world’s largest.  IRC is a major presence there, operating medical facilities that provide therapeutic feeding for the acutely malnourished, primary health care, and special services for survivors of rape.  On an average day in the camp’s Hagadera section, our hospital treats as many as 500 patients, including malnourished children who receive fortified food at our stabilization center.  In the Turkana district in northwest Kenya, our nutrition programs currently reach 390,000 people, including 70,000 children under 5.

 ■  In Ethiopia:  The IRC is trucking in water and installing or expanding low-tech, long-lasting water supply systems in camps in Dolo Ado serving over 100,000 refugees.  Since 88 percent of the refugees are women and children, programs to prevent sexual violence and help survivors heal are also a high priority. 

 ■  In Somalia:  In the Mudug region, the IRC is empowering local communities to better confront the next wave of famine and drought.  We are building and repairing wells, hand pumps and pipelines; training community volunteers to promote hygiene; and providing emergency water supplies to women, children, and the elderly (most men have journeyed in search of water and arable land).  Some 77,000 people have taken part in our livelihoods programs.

To Help

The escalating need for water, nutrition, health care and other vital resources in the three stricken countries is profound.  Donate now and your donation will have two times the impact.

All online gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $1.7 million through December 31.

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