East Africa: Supplying Food and Relief Supplies to Those in Urgent Need of Assistance

According to a report by the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on October 14th, the prolonged drought in Eastern Africa is considered to be the worst in the last 60 years, with more than 13,300,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian aid. AAR JAPAN has been mobilizing emergency assistance activities, distributing food items and other daily necessities in the northeastern Kenyan city of Garissa, and setting up tents to be used as elementary schools as well as distributing school supplies in refugee camps in Dadaab near the Somali border.

People in Destitute Conditions after Losing their Livestock in the Drought

United Nations organizations including UNHCR and other aid groups from around the world have been active in distributing basic supplies such as water and food to refugee camps in Kenya near the Somali border; however, aid within Kenya, in areas where the drought is particularly severe, still remains insufficient. In particular, the lives of nomadic herdsmen, whose number composes between 70% and 90% of the total population of the North Eastern Province, solely revolve around raising livestock and are greatly affected as their animals are dying from lack of water and pasture. As a result, many of them have given up their nomadic lifestyle and relocated closer to the larger cities. AAR JAPAN has consulted the Kenyan Red Cross and the local government and decided to initiate the distribution of food and other daily needs in the North Eastern Province.

October 10th, 2011- AAR JAPAN’s overseas staff member Chiya NAGASHIMA (right) interviews Ms. Phatma, 50 years old. “I used to own about 500 goats, but the majority of them have died. The remaining 50 are emaciated and cannot be sold,” she says.

We Have Distributed Food and Non-Food Items to 500 Families

October 18th, 2011- The relief supplies were brought to the capital city of Nairobi and then transported by 2 trucks. Tomoko SONODA (left), AAR JAPAN staff hands a relief package to a mother and her two children.

The population of Benane, one of our target areas, was approximately 16,000, but more than 3,000 people have resettled in the surrounding areas and an additional 5,000 nomadic herdsmen have flooded the entire Benane region in search of food and work. Food supplies from the Red Cross have been distributed to the pre-existing residents, but aid has not reached the newly arrived settlers. On October 18th, AAR JAPAN targeted such people in need of support, and distributed relief supplies to approximately 500 households.

“Relief aid has hardly reached us ever since the drought began, so we are truly grateful for the food supplies,” said 70-year-old Ms. Fatuma ALI. Ms ALI was previously one of the nomadic herders, but the majority of her 100 goats and 10 cows had died and her source of income was cut off. She arrived approximately 4 months ago in Benane with her relatives in a group of about 200 people. They have been living in shacks made of straw and tree branches, and Ms. ALI expressed joy when discovering that a vinyl tarp that could be used for rain protection was included as part of the relief supplies.

【Content of items distributed: 10 kg of rice, 2 kg of spaghetti, 3 kg of flour, 3 kg of beans, 1 kg of sugar, 500 grams of salt, 1 liter of cooking oil, canned tomatoes, tea leaves, bucket, portable fuel container, women’s sanitary products, 3 bars of soap, vinyl sheets】

“I am extremely thankful for the supplies,” says Ms. Fatuma ALI.

A shack used by one of the herders who gave up on their previous nomadic lifestyle.

The rainy season will begin in November and an average amount of rainfall is expected. However, rain does not necessarily mean that the nomadic herdsmen’s lives will return to what they used to be before; they are still left without their livestock. Many of them, who had led a migratory lifestyle herding animals, never attended school and are unable to take on new jobs. Furthermore, many of the places where they have currently resettled are in rural areas with limited or no access to schools and hospitals. In spite of the expected rainfall, the effects of the drought continue to threaten the lives of these people, forcing them into vulnerable conditions that require immediate assistance in various facets. I strongly felt that continuous assistance is desperately needed for these people.

Coordinating between Multiple Aid Organizations and Institutions

A tent used as a classroom at a refugee camp in Dadaab, provided by AAR JAPAN in September. The number of schools is far from sufficient and immediate support is needed in the field of education.

In addition to distributing food supplies and daily necessities in the disaster-affected region, we plan to carry out our ongoing relief activities in the refugee camps in Dadaab, such as setting up tents for schools, putting up a water tower, and installing a cooking facility, in the effort to improve the children’s learning environment. Currently, various UN organizations and international NGOs are offering support in Kenya, and it has not been an easy task for the groups to prevent overlaps or misallocation when distributing relief supplies. AAR JAPAN is committed to finalizing decisions based on our careful assessment of urgency, followed by the coordination with related aid organizations. There has even been a case where a staff member of an international NGO was kidnapped at a refugee camp in Dadaab. With utmost caution and a special attention to public security, we are dedicated to continuing our activities.

* This project was made possible thanks to a grant provided by Japan Platform in addition to generous individual donations.

Go IGARASHI, AAR JAPAN - Programme Coordinator
IGARASHI joined the AAR JAPAN Tokyo office in September, 2009. As part of the Overseas Division, he has coordinated projects in Kenya, Afghanistan, and Cambodia and additionally worked on emergency assistance operations during the Philippine Typhoon (2009), the Haiti Earthquake (2010), and the Sri Lanka Flood (2011). (Born in Tokyo)