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After the failure of Kenya’s “short” rains from October to December, an estimated 2.5 million people needed emergency food. At the end of January, Mathew Dambala, secretary general of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, warned that without help the crisis would become a famine.
Many fear the country’s “long rains” from March to May will also fail, worsening an already desperate situation, Dambala said.
In January, church workers were seeing mass deaths of livestock and high levels of malnutrition among mothers and children, according to Action by Churches Together, an international relief alliance to which the ELCA belongs. The alert noted that prices for food had doubled, while livestock prices dropped—damaging people’s purchasing power. Many families were forced to sell their few remaining productive assets to buy food.
Dambala said one herdsman was forced to sell 80 head of cattle before they died “for $6.84 each [when] the normal price would be $135 to $205.” Even “camels are dying because of the severe drought,” he said. “In areas which managed to get a one-time rainfall, farmers planted crops hoping the rains would continue.” But those crops withered when more rain wasn’t forthcoming, he added.
ELCA regional representative Andrew Hinderlie said Kenyan Lutherans have had to postpone a baptism of 150 Maasai “until they can return to their lands, as they’ve had to seek water and pastureelsewhere.”
Drought has plagued Kenya for more than a decade. Kenyan church leaders are seeking ways to meet long-term water needs while they meet immediate food needs. Until international help comes, Dambala said they’re taking food donations from their church members and the general public in Nairobi.
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