East Africa Famine Relief

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The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing its worst drought in over 60 years, causing famine conditions in several regions of Somalia and a massive refugee crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into Kenya and Ethiopia in search of water and food. The ongoing conflict between the Kenyan military and the Somali militant group, Al-Shabab, has exacerbated the situation and prevented starving people from accessing much-needed aid. Nearly 13 million people are affected by the crisis and tens of thousands have already died.

The root causes of the crisis are complex and require equally complex long-term solutions, but right now we must get emergency assistance to those who need it most. Make a gift to the East African Famine Relief Fund.

AJWS is working with grassroots organizations in northern Kenya to provide critical humanitarian aid to refugees and drought-affected communities that host them. We’re supporting our long-standing grantees in the region and other local grassroots organizations, because in this volatile region, a community-driven response is the most effective strategy for ensuring that needs are met. AJWS is working to identify additional grantees to support in the coming months.

Our Current Emergency Relief Grants

  • Arid Lands Development Focus (ALDEF): to provide emergency water supplies to marginalized female-headed households. Before AJWS’s grant, ALDEF only had the funding to distribute 2-3 liters of water daily to each household—far below the internationally recognized minimum of 15 liters. Today, AJWS’s support is enabling ALDEF to provide at least 15 liters of water each day to thousands of people.
  • Northern Aid (NAID): to implement an innovative, locally-sourced food aid program. NAID pays local herders for livestock that will likely die from the drought and then distributes the meat to female-headed households in need of food.
  • Pastoralist Girls Initiative (PGI): to distribute water and locally purchased food aid to women and girls and to ensure that the drought does not force girls out of school. AJWS’s grant, PGI will provide food aid to eight girls' schools, supplementing the cost of their tuition. The organization will also empower the women and girls to speak out about relief efforts that don’t sufficiently meet local needs.
  • Women for Peace and Development Kenya (WFPD): to provide food aid to severely malnourished Kenyan households near the border of Somalia. WFPD determines which families are in greatest need by conducting a community assessment and working with local elders and traditional leaders. It then purchases the food from local markets, strengthening the local food system.
  • International Rescue Committee: to provide food and assistance to Somali refugees fleeing from famine and to combat sexual and gender based violence.

Learn more about the Crisis and the International Response.

Learn more about AJWS’s emergency relief strategy in East Africa.

Read blog posts from our East Africa staff about the famine on AJWS’s blog, Global Voices.

Background on the Crisis and the International Response

  • Although the drought has been the immediate cause of the famine, decades of conflict in the region, poor governance and inequitable agricultural and macroeconomic policies have all exacerbated the situation. The crisis has recently become even more complex, with the security conditions in the region deteriorating as a result of an ongoing conflict between the Kenyan military and Al-Shabab, a Somali militant group. Many international aid organizations have evacuated their staff members from northern Kenya, leaving communities even more vulnerable to the crisis. This rising insecurity has reinforced the importance of supporting grassroots organizations that are deeply rooted in the communities where they work and are able to effectively deliver much needed aid.
  • Each day, over 500 Somali refugees pour into Kenya, swelling Dadaab Refugee Camp to 450,000 people. In the massively overcrowded camp, resources to assist the refugees are extremely limited. Cases of sexual and gender based violence are on the rise and organizations working in the camp are unable to adequately respond. As conditions in the camps continue to deteriorate, we expect large numbers of vulnerable refugees to begin migrating to Nairobi and other urban centers.
  • Pastoralist communities near the border of Somalia are especially affected by the drought, as many families’ animals—upon which they depended completely for their livelihoods—have died. Men from the communities often leave their homes and go to the cities to look for work, and women and children are left to fend for themselves.
  • Seasonal rains have begun in some areas of Kenya, causing massive flooding in some areas. The rains and ensuing floods have caused outbreaks of malaria, dengue fever and measles in northern Kenya and central and south Somalia.
  • The international community has responded to the crisis, but resources are still limited. The majority of relief efforts are focused on the regions of Somalia where famine has been declared and the resulting refugee crisis, while communities that are experiencing food crises in northern Kenya are falling through the cracks of the international response.
  • Although the crisis is not receiving as much media attention as it was several months ago, conditions are still dire and a sustained response is needed to prevent more unnecessary deaths.

AJWS’s Emergency Relief Strategy in East Africa

  • AJWS is providing short-term emergency grants to enable our partners to meet immediate needs and fill gaps in the international response.
  • We are supporting organizations that provide relief to drought-affected communities in Kenya. Much of the international response to the famine is focused on Somali refugees in Kenya, leaving the Kenyan communities that are hosting them vulnerable. This imbalance of aid can exacerbate existing tensions and often contribute to an increase in violent conflict. By supporting drought-affected Kenyan communities, we are both reaching people who desperately need aid and helping decrease potential conflict.
  • We are supporting pastoralist communities that many large-scale aid projects have difficulty reaching. Pastoralist communities are nearly always moving in search of water and pasture for their cattle. Local organizations understand the unique needs and customs of pastoralists and are able to effectively deliver aid to this hard-to-reach population.
  • Our partners are providing locally-sourced food aid that gets food to the people who need it most. Unlike importing food from other countries, this approach supports—rather than undermines—the Kenyan economy. It is also the most cost-effective approach to delivering food aid.
  • Our partners are targeting women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by disasters and often face an increased prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).