Imagine yourself in a dry, hot, dusty landscape, where water sources are scarce, and where parents don't know whether they have enough food for their children for the day -- or where tomorrow's food will even come from. This is a glimpse into the West African country of Mali, where the regional drought and food crisis is intensifying quickly.
In Africa, there is often a period of time between when a family’s stores from their last harvest runs out and when their new crop is ready to eat. These are known as the "hungry months."
Expensive, store-bought food is purchased and carefully rationed. Those who can’t buy food depend on neighbors, relatives, churches, and food distributions. And if there’s a drought, crops fail, or rains are late, those hungry months can turn into a hungry year.
This is the case for communities in the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Somalia), which is recovering from a historic drought and food crisis, and communities in West Africa (Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, and Senegal), where drought is just settling in.
Romanians are used to winter weather. But the record-breaking storms that have pounded Europe over the past several weeks haven’t been normal snow. They’ve left many communities isolated and without basic supplies, especially rural areas where people were just barely getting by before the storms.
Michael Arunga, a World Vision emergency communications advisor for Africa, is on assignment in South Sudan, which became the world's newest country last July after a referendum that established its independence from the rest of the country. In this report, he calls attention to a tragic situation that is taking shape as conflict continues.
Of course, I’m happy that the United Nations has declared an end to the famine in Somalia. This is encouraging news, considering that six regions of the country were designated as famine zones last July. However, an estimated 2 million people still face serious food shortages in Somalia. Our work in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa is nowhere near done.
Over the past several weeks, deep snow and intense cold have gripped Eastern Europe, isolating rural communities and families. In Romania, 6,000 people have been cut off for days, a result of major roads being closed and more than 300 trains cancelled. Here are some recent images of the conditions faced by families and communities amid the bone-chilling winter weather.
How would you respond if you heard a 13-year-old girl say that on some days, she simply doesn't eat? World Vision's Lauren Fisher, covering the drought and food crisis in Niger and across West Africa, writes her third blog post recounting stories of visits with people and communities affected by this emergency. Follow Lauren here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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“Someday, I want to be an NGO [non-governmental organization] worker.”
Shy 13-year-old Koubra Mamane’s answer surprises me. A bit hesitant in her speech, and a bit skeptical of the whole interview, she reminds me of your typical teenage girl. She tells us she loves mathematics and has to help her mom around the house. She shows us her school books carefully stowed in a bright yellow and red purse.
“I like calculations in school, but I also like the other subjects because I want to become intelligent and gain knowledge,” she adds.
But her dreams of the future wouldn’t be the only answer that gives me pause. In fact, the next one has been stuck in my head ever since it came out of her mouth. We ask Koubra about the food shortages in her village. She says that when there is no money, her family cannot buy food.
Those days, she and her family do not eat.
World Vision's Lauren Fisher is on the ground in Niger, where prolonged drought has resulted in weak harvests and a food crisis similar to what the Horn of Africa has suffered over the past year. Follow Lauren here on our blog or @WorldVisionNews (#wvlauren) for live, on-the-ground reports from the field.
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It’s 3 p.m., and the school is alive with clapping, singing, and plenty of desperate hand-raising. We’re spending our afternoon with the children of the Toungouzou village at their school, built by World Vision.
It looks like most schools you’ve been in, complete with the light scent of chalk dust, the boards filled with maps and songs. The children, ranging in age from 6 to about 13, are excited to see the cameras and to have some new people to admire their recently learned skills. A beautiful young girl in red dress and scarf comes up to the front to show us the song she’s learned. She beams shyly at our applause. We find out later that she’s 12 years old and hopes to be a doctor someday.
But along with the hopes and dreams in this classroom, the reality of the food crisis in Niger is here as well. There are several empty spots in the classroom where pupils once sat.
Recent bone-chilling cold and snow across Eastern Europe is leaving many families struggling to survive. Laura Reinhardt is on the ground in Romania, reporting on World Vision's efforts to help those in need amid the harsh conditions.
Last time I flew into Haiti, I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s "The Old Man and the Sea." I finished it just as the plane hit the tarmac of the broken-down Port-au-Prince airport. As I closed the book, I looked up and realized why it had resonated. The protagonist and his struggles at sea reminded me of this fascinating and broken place I’d come to call home -- a country where work happens, struggles continue, and yet "success" or any kind of respite seem so often out of reach.
It’s now been two years since the largest earthquake to hit the country in 200 years shook the life out of Port-au-Prince, causing chaos, destruction, death, and leaving more people homeless than the wrecked city could cope with. Journalists have come and gone, and the visiting groups of beaming, t-shirted volunteers have become less and less frequent. The work of aid agencies, the private sector, and the government has continued, with varying levels of success amid swathes of challenges, for 24 long months, and will continue for as long as there is the will, funding, and available resources.
This week marks the two-year anniversary of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. It was the most powerful quake to hit the nation in more than 200 years. The impact was devastating, triggering an international relief and recovery response. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere even before the 2010 quake.
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There are many goals we have for the future that help define our work as an organization: reducing global poverty, ending preventable child deaths, eradicating malaria, and so on.
But just for today, we have another goal: to inspire 13.3 million Americans to FWD the facts about the drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa, spreading awareness to ensure that the tragedy no longer goes overlooked.
In partnership with USAID and the FWD (Famine, War, Drought Relief) campaign, World Vision is asking supporters to participate in today's FWD>Day of Action for the Horn of Africa.
How? It's as simple as this: FWD the facts.
Over the weekend, I read a memoir of the life of Ahmed Ali Haile, a great Somali whom I was blessed to meet earlier at Daystar University in Kenya, where I attended my undergraduate studies. Haile taught a course I took on understanding Islam -- a course that would positively influence my relations with the Somalis with whom I work.
In his memoir, Haile narrates his experience of famine in 1965, as a 12-year-old boy in central Somalia. His family and community had coping mechanisms that they practiced. But the continued conflict there has clearly cut off this pattern -- and the consequences are devastating.
Since I started working for World Vision three years ago, I have met many malnourished children in Somalia. On few occasions, our teams were not able to save these children.
But I have witnessed just as many success stories of children who literally came back to life after staring death in the eyes.
Today is a day of observance mostly unknown to people outside of the international relief and development world -- the International Day for Disaster Reduction.
But with the American media largely preoccupied with the goings-on of our dysfunctional political environment, I’m taking the opportunity to commemorate this day you’ve likely never heard of by talking about four disasters you’ve probably not heard too much about.
These disasters impact vulnerable children and families, and they deserve more attention.
Two regions in the world are experiencing severe drought, and yet the outcomes in terms of human suffering are dramatically different. Do you know where these droughts are taking place? And can you tell what distinguishes one from the other?
Drought 1: It began in the fall of 2010, yet it persists one year later. Forecasters say there is a 50-percent chance that weather patterns will not change for the next 12 months. In the last century, this region of the world has experienced its driest 12 months ever recorded. Extreme and exceptional drought covers more than 90 percent of the land. Combined with record-high temperatures, the drought is having an unprecedented impact on the region’s economy and the livelihood of its residents. Economists estimate that $5 billion has been lost as crops and cattle are lost to the hot and arid conditions. To top it off, wildfires have destroyed another 3 million acres of land.
Drought 2: Another drought elsewhere in the world looks similar. For roughly two years, rainfall has been minimal. The rains that typically provide water for crops were just 30 percent of the average rainfall in recent years. Cattle and crop losses are roughly $300 million and have been devastating for the region’s families. Recognizing the conditions, farmers shifted away from their traditional cash crops and toward less profitable but quick-maturing food. But many are still unable to provide an income or even food for themselves or their families.
Both droughts are linked to variations in ocean temperature caused by La Niña. Both regions are agricultural, raising cattle and a variety of crops. Both groups of people have made rational choices in response to weather conditions completely out of their control.
Jon Warren recently spent nearly a month in Africa, documenting the ongoing food crisis and highlighting our work in the region. Upon returning home, he put this post together of some of his most memorable images that convey the tragic stories of people left at risk of starvation from an unrelenting drought and food crisis in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Anybody who recalls the terrible images of starving children that were shown on television during the famine that struck Ethiopia in the mid-1980s might be forgiven for feeling despair at the current stream of bad news flowing out of the Horn of Africa.
That feeling will probably only be heightened by the realization that the current drought in the region is more severe and more widespread than the one that appalled us in the ’80s. Indeed, it’s the worst drought in the area in 60 years and more than 12.4 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
Given this sort of challenge, it’s easy to throw up one’s hands in horror and give up. After all, what have all the billions of dollars worth of aid poured into Africa in recent decades realistically achieved? Aren’t things as bad as ever?
Join World Vision's global campaign to raise awareness about the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa -- where hunger is stalking 12.4 million people -- and tolerate "Famine No More." (If you receive this post in an email reader, please click over to the World Vision blog to view all images/videos)