Humanitarian crisis in the Horn…

We have no idea in this house how to go without… water, food, toliets that flush, water for bathing and phones are all at our disposal whenever needed. We can communicate, eat, satiate our thirst and clean our bodies whenever needed. It is what we know- most of us- as Americans living here in the USA.  Last week the boys and I had the privilege of volunteering for a few hours at Feeding America. We were able to repack damaged foods in order to feed many people throughout the state of Michigan and across our country who need it most. We saw first hand the abundance of food we have in this country. In fact it is not food we are lacking but rather proper channels to be sure food is not spoiled or exposed before it gets into the hands of those who need it. Feeding America was started here in Grand Rapids Michigan and it was a blessing to see all that is being done to serve and protect people and families from going hungry. Fast forward to this week and the crisis that continues to haunt me…

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A U.S. official said Monday he fears Ethiopian officials may be underestimating the country’s needs in its drought crisis, even as the government announced that 4.5 million Ethiopians need food aid, 40 percent more than last year.

The U.S. government aid arm is looking for ways to help the hungry on Ethiopia’s side of a three-country drought crisis that is also devastating communities in Kenya and Somalia.

“We are concerned that we are underestimating the situation, especially in the southern provinces,” Jason Frasier, mission director of USAID in Ethiopia, said of that country’s food crisis.

Ethiopia’s state minister of agriculture, Mitiku Kassa, said Monday that nearly $400 million is needed to fill the country’s food gap. He said Ethiopia needs to distribute 380 metric tons of food.

A drought centered in the triangle where Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet has sent tens of thousands of people pouring intorefugee camps in search of food. The three-way border is a nomadic region where families heavily depend on the health of their livestock.

Uganda and Djibouti have also been hit. The World Food Program said it expects 10 million people in the Horn of Africa to require food aid.

The head of the U.N. agency for refugees said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the “worst humanitarian disaster” in the world.

Somalis are walking for days or weeks to reach camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. The young and the old are dying en route. Families have little food or money after herds of cattle, goats and camels were wiped out after successive seasons of no rains hit the war-ravaged country.

Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in northeast Kenya, is seeing thousands of new arrivals daily. More than 380,000 people already live in the camps.

“I must say that I visited many refugee camps in the world. I have never seen people coming in such a desperate situation,” the head of the U.N. refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, said Sunday after seeing new arrivals in Dadaab.

Faduma Sakow Abdullahi, a Somali mother, said her husband died after drinking contaminated water, and that two children died on the way to Dadaab from hunger and exhaustion. Others in need begged for help but she had none to give.

“My journey was like a trip to hell. I have seen and experienced a lot of sufferings on my way to Kenya,” Abdullahi said, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I reached a stage in which I didn’t care about whether I die or live.”

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Associated Press reporter Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Dadaab, Kenya contributed to this report.

This is what tugs at my heart and leaves me with an insatiable feeling of emptiness. These images have permanently changed me as I have seen first hand the eyes of the women who do not know how or when they will be able to feed their babies.  While in the trash dump area of Ethiopia during our visit last February I was gently approached by a woman with a very tiny baby all snuggled into her breast and covered with rags. The Mother strived to communicate that she was unable to feed her baby and within minutes of trying to console her I noticed another small package on the woman’s back. It was not an item she was carrying but another baby. The babies were silent and clearly very malnourished. I am sure I gasped especially after seeing the second baby but I remember clearly knowing that I could solve the problem. We Americans are good at springing to action, good or bad we often believe we have a solution. The story ends well with several from our team contributing to purchasing formula for the mother and a few of us seasoned Mother’s spending a great deal of time educating the Mother how to get her baby to take the bottle. Continuing to nurse the babies was not an option as the Mother was not producing milk due to her own lack of water or nutrition.  But what if she had no solution, nobody there to hear her plea? What if walking for two weeks to find water or food or perhaps even shelter from the very dry elements proved unfruitful? What if finally arriving at a refugee camp meant having to sharing any food or water with millions more in the same situation? What is happening in the horn of Africa is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and we cannot sit by and pretend we do not know.

Spread the word and pray.  Beg God for mercy on the people suffering in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Pray for rain. Pray for the organizations and the workers on the ground who are trying to help. Pray for country leaders to act with integrity and honor.  Pray for food to arrive quickly and pray for movement- movement among the hearts of all of us who can act. We all can do something and many of us all working for the greater good, God’s kingdom can move mountains.

Our Ava now lives in a land of plenty, but her life began in the southern area of Ethiopia where drought is causing the loss of crops, livestock and  human lives. There are many families and Mothers who are peering daily into the eyes of their sick and starving children. As I look at Ava every morning I am reminded that she is a blessing to us. Yes she is what many call a “lucky little girl.” I suppose that is true but instead we know that it is us who are the lucky ones. We now know.  If you were ever to visit Ethiopia you would see people just like you and me, people who have hopes and dreams for their future and the future of their children.  You would see people who work incredibly hard in very challenging circumstances. Life is hard in Africa. What can we do to make an impact even if we are only able to help just one?  Here are a few organizations I know are currently working on the ground at the refugee camps in the horn of Africa.

Mana Nutrition

Oxfam

Unicef