Not every disaster is unexpected.
Sometimes the warning signs can be seen months in advance. Insufficient amounts of rainfall. Political uncertainty. Skyrocketing food prices. Crop failure. Poverty. Any one or a combination of these factors can cause a disaster which can go unnoticed.
For the United Nations to officially declare a famine three criteria must be met:
- At least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope
- Acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%
- The death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons
Long before a famine is officially declared animals and people are already slowly dying. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable, but hunger is no respecter of persons.
The warning signs are evident in many places across Africa and the Middle East. If we heed them, we will be able to save lives.
ADRA saw the warning signs in northern Kenya several years ago.
ADRA Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and ADRA Kenya responded to the 2011 famine by providing emergency food rations to the people of Didkuro and other areas of Mandera West county.
To help the communities become more resilient in the face of drought and famine, the three agencies began the Food for Today and Tomorrow project.
Halima is a single mother with six children. Her family depends on the livestock they rear. They were devastated when they lost 15 heads of cattle, 20 goats, and 12 sheep to the 2011 drought. Only a few goats managed to survive. Halima was distraught at not being able to feed her family when the drought caused a famine.
Halima knew that in the arid, desert conditions of Didkuro in northern Kenya she could not rely only on her herd to support her family. She decided to join the ADRA project and supplement her income by starting a farm.
Halima learned farming skills and water-saving gardening techniques that have enabled her to grow kale, spinach, and tomatoes to feed her family.
“I am very grateful to ADRA Kenya for supporting me with skills to produce kale, spinach, and tomatoes via the shared water saving gardening technologies. Since then I have been harvesting tomatoes, kale, and spinach for our domestic consumption. ADRA Kenya has been of great help to us as a family and as a community. Through capacity building trainings on the rehabilitation of grazing land, herd size management, and grazing plans, our livestock have not died as we experienced in the 2011 drought.”
The project has brought hope to many people in Mandera West, but life continues to be difficult.
The warning signs of famine appeared again last year. The rains that normally fall between October to December failed to appear in 2016, causing another severe drought. Families have been forced to walk hundreds of miles in search of pasture for their animals and water for themselves.
Halima’s family has been forced to skip meals. Halima has walked for miles each day to fetch firewood, hoping to sell it to earn money to buy food or to repay her neighbours for lending her food.
“I prayed to Allah to remember my family with food.”
Halima’s prayers were answered when the ADRA Kenya staff informed her that there would be another emergency distribution of food to alleviate the hunger caused by the drought.
“I could not hide my joy. I shouted ‘ALLAH bless ADRA, the honourable people’…ADRA is honourable because of honesty, trustworthiness, and openness in their food distribution.”
500 families have been given enough rice, beans, oil, and salt to last for three months.
“Now my family will not sell more goats or skip meals.”
ADRA was able to assist Halima’s family because of the generous Disaster and Famine Relief offerings that Canadians gave in May 2016. Those gifts are helping families like Halima’s to survive.
Chapters 41 and 42 of the book of Genesis in the Bible tells the story of a severe famine. Seven years of plenty were followed by seven years of want. We are told that the famine was in all lands, but because of the warning given to the Pharaoh and interpreted by Joseph the people of Egypt were able to prepare for and survive the disaster.
It surprises no one that there are disasters in this fallen world, nor that they are happening with increasing frequency and severity. Just as Joseph was given special insight into the meaning of Pharaoh’s dream, and thereby blessed with the responsibility to act on his knowledge, Adventists too have special insight and responsibility. The Disaster and Famine Relief Offering enables ADRA to be ready before a disaster strikes, just as Joseph was ready before the famine.
ADRA strives not just to save lives in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, but to equip those we help with the resources to rebuild their lives and to lessen the effects of future disasters. Working with communities through the emergency, transition, and development phases allow us to help people to thrive.
ADRA’s work to intervene in disasters and alleviate hunger is possible only because of the generosity of our supporters. Thank you for your prayers and your donations. You are truly saving lives!