One year ago, parts of East Africa recorded the worst rainfall for 60 years leaving more than 13 million people in the grip of a devastating drought.
Thanks to the dedication of its health workers and generous donations from supporters global health charity Merlin raised nearly three quarters of a million pounds, distributed 7,500 tons of food to Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and saved the lives of thousands of people.
In Kenya, Merlin is working in the arid Turkana region, where the pastoralist population rely on seasonal rains for their survival.
Merlin’s health workers screened more than 45,500 children for malnutrition and distributed over 1,000 metric tons of therapeutic and supplementary food, such as corn and soya blend (CSB) to the most vulnerable people.
Merlin’s Kenya Country Director Chip Barnett said:
“We have been overwhelmed by people’s generosity. Although the situation has improved a little in most areas, drought is a continuous problem. That’s why we’re working there for the long-term, ensuring that remote communities can rebuild their lives and are more able to cope with droughts in the future.”
In Somalia the crisis was exacerbated by conflict which made reaching people with aid incredibly difficult and in the south an official famine was declared for the first time since 1985. Despite the huge logistical challenges, Merlin distributed food to more than 3,000 children and pregnant women.
In neighbouring Ethiopia, Merlin supported 217 health facilities and 40 outreach areas, providing food to over 22,000 people and training 720 health workers and 2,131 community health volunteers on malnutrition, hygiene and sanitation and emergency preparedness.Today, one year after the crisis first hit the headlines, malnutrition and mortality rates across the region have dropped to pre-emergency levels but nine million people across the region are still in need of food aid following erratic rains in many areas.
Without significant change – this pattern of health crises will continue indefinitely, with medical workers constantly on their guard for the next emergency.
Paula Sansom Merlin’s Head of East Africa said:
“The response to the food crisis was incredible and has helped save many lives but poor rains continue to affect large parts of the region. We have to build on this momentum to ensure emergency responses not only save lives in the short-term, but help build up people’s resilience to future disasters.”