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The global humanitarian agency Mercy Corps increased their response in July to the current drought in the Horn of Africa with emergency operations in northeastern Kenya, and plans to build on existing work in hard-hit Ethiopia and Somalia.
"The drought has had a devastating impact; millions are on the move looking for food and water," said Matthew Lovick, Mercy Corps Africa Director. "Traditional herders and their families have been hit the hardest, and women, children and the elderly are the first ones succumbing to starvation and disease."
Many of the region’s inhabitants are traditional herders who rely on livestock, which are now dying in massive numbers due to lack of feed and water. Tens of thousands of Somalis have fled to border areas of Ethiopia and Kenya in desperation.
Mercy Corps is focusing its efforts on the most vulnerable people in villages and towns. "If we can deliver food, water and other resources to people where they are today, it’s less likely they’ll move to severely strained, overcrowded camps like Dadaab tomorrow," explained Lovick, referring to the Dadaab camp in northeast Kenya that thousands of refugees have been flowing into daily. "Keeping people out of camps is a priority."
Following a recent assessment in northeast Kenya, Mercy Corps will start emergency response operations in Wajir County this week. The agency’s work will likely include vouchers for food and water, cash for work, water trucking, and purification of water.
In Ethiopia and Somalia, Mercy Corps expects to build on its strong record of helping people access food and water, and increase their incomes. The agency is currently helping 150,000 people through programs like emergency food distributions, clean water delivery, and cash-for-work activities.
The region’s drought crisis has been growing steadily for months. On July 20, the United Nations declared a famine in parts of Somalia, where the U.S. government estimates that nearly three million people are in need of assistance and more than ten million people may be at risk.
Photo: Joy Portella/Mercy Corps. Herder in Kenya.