By Mark Kelly, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE (BP) – Resilient Somalis have endured two decades of civil war and two consecutive seasons of no rain. Now, with livestock and crops dead, their babies and elderly suffering from malnutrition, and food prices skyrocketing, they have given up any pretense they can survive on their own.[img_assist|nid=7586|title=Results of the famine|desc=Abderahman Dubo, 1, arrived in a Kenya refugee camp with his mother Habibo Dubo, father and three other siblings after traveling 30 days on foot from their home in famine-stricken Somalia. The embattled family members have lost their 30 head of cattle in the drought.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=424]
To get to a refugee center – a four-day trek from the border of Somalia to Dadaab, Kenya – many walk more than a hundred miles. Almost everyone passes bodies of mothers, children and the elderly – anyone too weakened by hunger and lack of water to escape with their lives.
More than half of Somalia’s population – roughly 3.7 million people, including 400,000 children – is at risk as Somalia enters the fourth month of a devastating famine. The famine, coupled with military unrest and anarchy in parts of the country, has complicated the already volatile lives of Somalis.
Famine in the Horn of Africa has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. An estimated 12.4 million people are endangered by the crisis, which also has affected Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Djibouti.
Miniscule rainfall in two consecutive rainy seasons has triggered the worst drought the Horn of Africa has faced in 60 years.
Southern Baptists face a major crisis in their World Hunger Fund, trying to meet this need, as well as others around the world. Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response, says giving to the fund has sharply declined. BGR is the international humanitarian face of the SBC.
“We are now at a ‘red alert’ time for our human needs funding,” Palmer warns. “The overseas hunger relief fund is down to $4.1 million – enough to meet the needs of Southern Baptist international hunger projects for six months.” That doesn’t include the unprecedented Horn of Africa famine.
“We are approaching a baseline where we are going to have to start denying funds to critical projects,” Palmer acknowledged.
“Southern Baptists, who care so deeply about people in need, have given very generously in years past,” Palmer continued, noting that 100 percent of every dollar donated is used to help hungry people. He encourages Baptists to give, for the sake of millions whose lives and destinies are threatened by hunger and starvation.
World Hunger Fund projects help the poorest of the poor, the most neglected and marginalized and some of the most lost people groups in the world, Palmer said. The drought-affected area of Africa’s Horn is dominated by Islam.
The UN’s office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that the number of people needing humanitarian assistance could increase by as much as 25 percent, growing from 12 million to 15 million people, by the end of the year. The influx is already felt at Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.
The camp was built to house 90,000. However, relief workers estimate there are more than 400,000 crowded in or around the camp made up of three compounds, with an average of 1,300 new arrivals daily. The newcomers often end up sleeping out in the open until they can construct makeshift shelters with whatever material is handy – sticks, cardboard, cloth or metal. Anything helps to defend against the blistering sun and the billowing dust.
With Southern Baptist famine relief efforts gearing up in the Horn of Africa, support for those efforts is being mobilized with the posting of a downloadable multimedia slideshow on the crisis.
“We have had a flood of inquiries from churches and individuals about how they can help people in desperate need in Africa,” Palmer said. “We’ve been able to talk with them about the ‘red alert’ crisis in the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, but haven’t been able to offer them much by way of information about relief efforts underway or media resources to help raise support.”
The “red alert” crisis in the World Hunger Fund has emerged as giving to the fund has sharply declined. When Southern Baptists donated $4.3 million to the World Hunger Fund in 2010, it was only 40 percent of what they gave during a 12-month span a decade earlier, and the lowest donations to the fund have been in 20 years.
“We are delighted to report that one feeding site is operating and assessments are in process in two other locations,” Palmer said. “We are going places that few other organizations can go, and we are able to do this in a large part due to the generosity of Southern Baptists and their contributions to the World Hunger Fund.”
The multimedia slideshow is available at www.vimeo.com/africastories/famine-imb. Donations designated for the Horn of Africa crisis can be made through the International Mission Board at www.imb.org. Resources for promoting the World Hunger Fund can be found at www.worldhungerfund.com.
By Mark Kelly, Baptist Press