Food Crisis Looms in East Africa

Drought conditions in East Africa - notably Kenya and Tanzania - have forced another food shortage crisis to loom in the area. Read how Compassion's focus on long-term development and emphasis on releasing children from poverty is helping defeat the persistent enemy of hunger.

Food Crisis Looms in East Africa

By: Ovetta Sampson, with Elizabeth Karanja in Kenya and Erasto Malila in Tanzania   |   Posted: March 20, 2006

Part 1
Teresia Suakei's backyard is a dust bowl. It hasn't rained in Teresia's community in Kihol, Kenya, in three years. Because of the drought, millions of East Africans like Teresia are facing a looming food crisis.

"Please God; help my parents get water and food."

This short prayer whispered by Teresia Suakei at her home in Kiloh, Kenya, could also be the impassioned plea of more than 11 million East African villagers struggling with a recurring and persistent enemy - hunger.

Five consecutive years without consistent or adequate rainfall has caused extreme drought in this region - most notably in Kenya and Tanzania. These drought conditions have national and humanitarian leaders worried that a widespread food shortage will again plague Africa. Just two years ago, the United Nations sounded an alarm bell on drought-induced starvation.

So far the long-term drought has affected more than 800 Compassion-assisted families in Kenya and many in Tanzania. Compassion is currently providing food provisions to affected families, but the need for food relief is great.

Drought Affects Millions

In a region where 50 percent of the population makes its living by farming, a drought is a terrifying reality. The crisis is so severe that in February Tanzania's prime minister reported that nearly 4 million of his countrymen were at risk of famine.

"Drought conditions have short-term and long-term effects on our people," says Dr. Emmanuel Mbennah, Compassion Tanzania's Country Director. "In the short term, vulnerable children go hungry, which disrupts their studies and leads to malnutrition. But in the long-term, these conditions expose people to a high degree of impoverishment as they lose their livelihood, and that affects the general health of our country."

Governments Struggle to Provide Food

With 11 million people in East Africa at risk of starvation, the immediate need is for food relief. More than 100,000 tons of food are needed in Tanzania alone. In addition, food prices have tripled, making it even more difficult for families to purchase provisions.

But even if food relief is given, experts say it's just a matter of time before the next crisis emerges in this region. In 2004, food relief was shipped to this region - most notably Kenya - and that relief helped many for a while, but now it seems the crisis has returned. So is there any hope of a solution? Read Part Two: Learn more about why food crises haunt Africa and solutions to combat them.

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