Lifesaving relief for families in northeastern Kenya


July 26, 2011

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    Joy Portella/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Families like 10-year-old Hindiya Roble (right) and her sister are struggling to find food and water in drought-parched places like Hadado, Kenya. Photo: Joy Portella/Mercy Corps

“People here are falling down in masses ... it will be too late to do anything if we don't act now,” our emergency response leader in northeastern Kenya just told me on a phone call.

He and his team are reporting desperate conditions in drought-ravaged Wajir County, where Mercy Corps is beginning lifesaving emergency programs this week. We'll be focusing on two particularly hard-hit towns — Wajir-Bor and Hadado — where families from surrounding areas have fled, seeking relief from thirst and hunger.

According to the United Nations, there are more than 2.4 million people who need humanitarian aid in Kenya right now — especially food and water. Because of worsening drought and rising numbers of displaced families seeking assistance, that number will swell to at least 3.5 million by September.

Our team reports that women and children are the majority of displaced people that continue streaming into towns around the region. Many husbands and fathers continue to search for water and forage to keep their livestock herds alive. Throughout the region, up to 80 percent of livestock have already perished.

Our plans are to first of all supply what's most needed for survival: clean water. We'll be delivering water to families using 20-ton tanker trucks filled up in the district capital. Wells and other water sources in most local towns has dried up, causing the price of water to skyrocket beyond the means of struggling residents. We're also planning on equipping families with jerry cans and other containers to transport water home.

In the coming days, we'll also focus on helping families buy food — which is available in most towns, but very expensive. In some places, food prices have quadrupled. Our team is working on a solution that would provide vouchers to families, which they could use to purchase much-needed food. This approach will also help local storekeepers keep their businesses open during these threatening times.

The Horn of Africa crisis is currently affecting more than 11.6 million people across the region — and it's spreading. With your help, our team can do even more for families in desperate places like Wajir County, Kenya.