Horn of Africa

Drought and Food Crisis

The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Severe famine has ravaged parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water. The situation in Somalia is compounded by the high level of violence and civil unrest- with women and children often bearing the brunt of the violence. East Kenya is now home to hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have managed to flee the violence and drought conditions.

Although the situation in Somalia is currently too dangerous for us to send any workers directly there, Amurtel has been exploring ways to help those displaced and living in refugee camps, as well as communities in East Kenya that are experiencing the harsh results of drought and lack of food. Along with food distribution and medical care, one priority we are focusing on is to help women provide food security for their families through agricultural cooperatives centered around crops that can survive in the drought stricken areas. Below is a report from Didi Ananda Prama, one of our Disaster Team Leaders who is setting up an Amurtel Disaster Relief Program in Kenya.

Report From the Field

Below is a report from Didi Ananda Prama, an Amurtel Disaster Team Leader in Kenya.

Greetings and thanks to all who supported my coming to Kenya. It was a bit of a surprise arriving in Africa after a hiatus of 30 years but some things never change; like the disparity of the have’s and have nots, development and disarray.

I arrived in the chilly morning hours and the taxi driver decided to take the short cut over muddy pot holed roads to avoid the traffic on the new paved road that goes all the way from Nairobi to Mombasa. Though as Clare, a new found Kenyan friend, writer, mom and osteopath said,” we’ll no longer be sure to see elephants or lions on the road as we always did in the past, so is this progress?”

We passed zinc shack slums but circumvented the high rise city center and arrived in a beautiful area called Killimani. Here there are lovely Jacaranda trees with purple blossoms that hang like grape clusters and flowering bushes of intense beauty, but all homes have high walls and security guards at the entrance. Nairobi is like a cluster of villages, and has lovely weather warm, sunny during the day, and cool at night. This is the time of the small rains, so we get short down pours which makes everything green and lush but quick to dry. I am staying with the director of our Amurtel homeopathic college (www.abhalight.org) here in Nairobi. Many students have been trained here and gone on to set up clinics in the rural village areas. We visited one of the clinics near Wati, a 3 hour drive from Nairobi through mountains and green farmland that reminds me of Vermont. The clinic is run by 3 of her students and housed in a building she built in the village which treats all kinds of diseases including HIV, which is rampant in this area.

We visited a farm planted with corn and beans cultivated by donkeys who also carry water to the newly planted orange, papaya and mango trees. We were discussing the possibility of growing Spirulina. Spirulina is 60% protein using only 17% of the water needed for corn, and needs little land and labor for cultivation, thus providing greater food security for the farmers. Relief Watch in their October 2011 report estimates that there are 3.75 million Kenyans in rural areas suffering from food insecurity. The maize and beans are looking green and growing but are dependent on the rains that in recent years too often don’t come.

So I am on the Spirulina trail. Checking out if Kenya can really become the African bread basket and feed all the hungry with Spirulina. Writing a proposal to start a program with malnourished kids and deworm them and give them Spirulina daily and offer opportunities for their mothers to learn some health education and also provide micro finance to start small businesses.
On Sundays, AMURT/EL feeds over 1,000 kids from the nearby slum. They come and sit and get a plate of rice and beans with vegetables we dole out from buckets. It’s amazing how smoothly it goes until it’s over and all dash to line up by the gate and get a packet of biscuits to take home. After the children, the infants and mothers, babies strapped back or front, sit and eat a hot meal.

I remember one day in Haiti when I was home alone with our 7 kids and they were hungry and I couldn’t find any food and they started crying. It made me realize how horrible it is to be a mother who has no food for her children. The fathers can run away but the mothers must stay. So it’s nice to see the light in the kid’s faces and the smiles and the happiness from full bellies.
I met a Kenyan man who was helping with the food distribution, He has his PHD from Leeds in England and his masters from Cornell in the USA in ecology and community development and he has returned to Kenya to fulfill his dream to feed the people. Another key to the puzzle.

It’s a slow process but the path is unfolding and thank you to all for your support. I haven’t yet been to the largest Refugee camp in the world in Dadab- nearly half a million mostly ethnic Somaliis. Presently there is still lots of trouble and military action to chase rebels back across the border and into Somalia.

So I send you my heartfelt thanks and all the best wishes for health and happiness.

-Didi Ananda Prama