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When the only asset you have left is hope

Kenya, August 14, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Erin Gray/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Eighteen-year-old Saadia Farah and her one-year-old daughter Amina, who are surviving the Horn of Africa's brutal famine with help from Mercy Corps. Photo: Erin Gray/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Erin Gray/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Saadia's three-year-old son Abdihakim has been diagnosed with malnutrition. Photo: Erin Gray/Mercy Corps

At only 18, Saadia Farah is one of the many thousands of mothers that Mercy Corps is helping survive the drought crisis in East Africa.

Her story is hard, but unfortunately far from unique. She lives in the tiny village of Bilil Burbur in northeastern Kenya, in an area scorched by the drought and more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the nearest water source. Her children — one-year-old Amina and three-year-old Abdihakim — were shy, quiet and lethargic at her side as she talked.

“Life is very difficult for us now. The drought has taken everything we had. My husband goes away for weeks at a time with the few goats we have left, to find water and food for them. Sometimes he is gone for a very long time. Mostly I spend all my time just waiting for him to come back and worrying about what we will do. It is very hard.

“I am very happy though that Mercy Corps has brought us water now and that it is free. I had to spend everything we had left on water before, because the only way to get it was to put a container on a bus and pay them to bring it back with some water in from far away. It was too expensive and we could only afford one container a day, which is not enough for us at all. It is so tough to get water here, and as we have nothing left now we cannot afford food either.

"They say my son is malnourished, but I do not have any way to feed him more. I wish I did. We can only eat what other people share with us as we have no money. I don’t know about the future — I can’t think about it — I’m just so worried. I hope things will change, but I don’t know how.”

As the Mercy Corps programme manager here in northeast Kenya told me when I arrived here, it seems the only asset people like Saadia have left here is hope — and even that is beginning to fade. Despite three years without a drop, people still cling to the hope that the rains will finally come in November. Saadia hopes that her husband will return soon. That there will be enough food for her children. That she will have enough water to keep them alive. That the future will be different.

With your support, our teams are doing everything they can to keep those hopes — and thousands of families here in East Africa like Saadia’s — alive.