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Below the photo is a news release from InterAction. The gist of it is this: in southern Somalia, drought has given way to famine and will be announced as such by the United Nations sometime today.
While Heifer does not have projects in Somalia, we do work in Kenya, which has been hit hard by the drought as well, particularly as Somalian refugees flood into Kenya seeking relief. In an email from Alex Kirui, our Kenya country director, I have learned our Kenya staff is currently assessing the drought situation in the pastoral parts of the country. We expect to hear back next week, but a bit of good news in the meantime regarding Heifer participants in Kenya is that our dairy project areas have not been affected by the drought, because the region has received normal rains. We will keep you posted on how our project participants are faring. In the meantime, I urge you to a) keep up with news coverage of this crisis, and b) give generously what you are able to organizations who are on the ground providing aid and relief.
We feel lucky to report that our dairy project participants have received enough rain.
Please continue reading to learn more about the drought-turned-famine in East Africa.

U.S. NGOs urge strong global response to East Africa crisis

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2011)—The United Nations is expected to officially declare famine in parts of southern Somalia tomorrow (Wednesday, July 20), marking a new phase in a crisis that has affected the East Africa region.

“Governments need to wake up to the severity of this crisis and meet critical funding needs. Severe malnutrition rates, acute hunger and alarming refugee flows demand an extraordinary international response,” said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based international NGOs.

At least 25 of InterAction’s members are responding to the crisis in East Africa, which has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, spiraling food prices and ongoing conflict. More than 11 million people are at risk, according to U.N. estimates, and hundreds of thousands have fled Somalia to overcrowded refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The response by the humanitarian community has been hampered by complex security issues as well as legal restrictions in place to prevent donor funds from reaching extremist groups such as al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia.

Al-Shabaab has said it will allow international humanitarian groups access to affected areas, a promise it needs to keep if aid is to reach populations most in need.

“For aid to flow into southern Somalia at the levels required, al-Shabaab will have to cease its harassment of international aid agencies and staff, while the U.S. and other donor governments will have to trust the procedures of experienced aid organizations to ensure that aid reaches vulnerable people without diversion,” said Worthington.

The U.S. government has provided $383 million in fiscal year 2011, including emergency food, water and hygiene supplies.

“While the United States has been more generous than other nations, we need to do more. We appeal to U.S. lawmakers not to cut budgets that could affect millions affected by this crisis. It is the right thing to do,” said Worthington.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.