Nairobi, Kenya (July 29, 2011) - While lifesaving aid is desperately needed for people already suffering in the Horn of Africa food crisis, CARE is calling on donors to also support immediate interventions that protect people’s assets and prevent more families from sliding down the path to destitution and severe hunger.
In parts of Ethiopia, the need for immediate action is clear. In Borena, more than one-third of all livestock have already died of starvation. It is an indicator of the severity of the drought that goats and camels, animals that are usually drought resistant, are dying as well.
“For pastoral families, livestock is their life. If they lose their animals, they have no way of feeding their families, and they’ll need food aid to survive. And even once the crisis passes, if their livestock have died, they’ll have nothing left, no way to earn an income,” said Barbara Jackson, CARE International Humanitarian Director. “Saving livestock and livelihoods today will help families to cope with this immediate crisis, and help prevent them from becoming dependent on humanitarian assistance in the long term.
“In this crisis, we can see that millions of people have already fallen over the edge to severe hunger, and we’re scaling up efforts to provide lifesaving aid. But at the same time, we’re trying to help those who are teetering on the brink.”
In parts of Ethiopia, surviving cattle are too emaciated to give milk or to sell on the market. Some people migrate as far as 400 kilometres in search of water and pasture, putting pressure on the remaining grazing grounds. CARE, in close collaboration with the local government, opened 21 destocking sites to recover some value from emaciated and unproductive animals that would otherwise die and to prevent conflict that might arise from competition around scarce pasture grounds.
CARE pays cattle owners 800 Birr (47 USD) per head of cattle, and provides hay and supplementary animal feed to save the lives of remaining cattle. Under supervision from official food inspectors, the meat from the slaughtered animals then goes to vulnerable families suffering from the food crisis.
“The response to this crisis needs to consider that these families were vulnerable even before the drought, and it is not simply the dry season that has led to this situation. Chronic vulnerability, poverty, social injustice, climate change and conflict are all responsible for recurring food crises in the Horn of Africa, and this year’s spike in food prices has made the situation worse,” said Jackson. “Our number one priority right now is saving lives, but we also need to look at long-term solutions that prevent crises like this from becoming so catastrophic.”
CARE’s emergency response to the drought began to scale up at the beginning of 2011 when the beginnings of the crisis first became apparent. Today, we are helping more than one million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya (including the Dadaab Refugee Camp) with lifesaving food, water and emergency assistance, but also supporting community resiliance activities such as cash-for-work, livestock destocking and savings groups that help people save their assets and buy food for their families.
Longer term work
In addition to our immediate response in the face of this current food crisis CARE International emphasises the need to tackle the long-term, underlying causes of poverty. We have been present in the region for over 25 years and are helping families to break the cycle of hunger and to adapt to the changing climate and recurring droughts.
Our ongoing work in the region includes:
- Maintenance, protection and development of water points and wells.
- Working with women in Mandera, Kenya to revive traditional food preservation techniques.
- Vaccination of animals to prevent diseases breaking out as they congregate at remaining water points.
- Helping families have more consistent sources of income by supporting them in diversifying their work.