Famine in the Horn of Africa is spreading as the region’s worst drought in 60 years continues to worsen, according to the United Nations.
Tens of thousands of people have died, and 12.4 million more living across Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti are in serious need of food aid.
The situation in Somalia is especially severe. More than 3 million Somalis are “on the brink of starvation,” and another million are in “crisis,” according to the UN. They have also predicted as many as 750,000 people in Somalia could die as the drought continues to worsen.
Children are most vulnerable to the effects of famine. Their bodies are weak and unable to handle extended hunger, which also makes them highly susceptible to disease. According to FSNAU (Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit), there are currently 450,000 malnourished children in Somalia alone, with bordering countries also suffering from drought and famine.
Cosmos Mutowa, NCM regional coordinator for Africa, recently visited refugee camps in Kenya. He reports hearing many mothers tell stories of losing children on the way to the camps because they were too weak to handle the journey.
Region in Crisis
A man named Mohammed, a leader in the Church of the Nazarene in the Horn of Africa, shares how hunger has permanently altered his family. In the past few years, three of Mohammed’s eight children have died due to malnutrition-related causes. Then, in July 2011, he lost both his wife and their four-month-old daughter.
“This is truly a regional crisis”
This is not an uncommon occurrence these days according to Horn of Africa NCM staff. They report at least 25 children in Nazarene families have died as a result of malnutrition and related causes. Local leaders expect this number to increase in the coming days.
“This is truly a regional crisis,” says one NCM staff member on the field. “Everyone is affected. Local Nazarene leaders simply have nothing to give when people turn to them for help. The vast majority of them cannot afford to give even one meal a day to their families.”
The Church Remains
Pastor George Mureithi lives in a desert area of northern Kenya. His congregation has dwindled from 80 members to 30, as families leave in search of a place to find food and water. Mureithi says they have also had to close the church preschool, the one place where children in the community could go for a hot meal each day. Still, the pastor and his wife say they are determined to stay there and keep the doors of the church open.
“If I leave in their suffering, how can I be with them when they rejoice?”
Rev. John Emuria Nanerio supervises three congregations in a nearby area in Kenya. Nanerio has also watched congregations shrink. He says that children in the village wander the streets in search of food, and others are left along the sides of roads by parents who are unable to provide anything to eat or drink. Nanerio says that he worries that he cannot “keep up” with the difficulties of the famine and meet the needs of church and community members. Yet he insists that God has called him to be there, so he will stay. He asks, “If I leave in their suffering, how can I be with them when they rejoice?”