Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

FCA granted 400,000 euros to assist East Africa suffering from a food shortage — Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

The worst drought in four decades along with inflation and problems with the availability of imported cereals (accelerated by the war in Ukraine) are causing the food shortage in the Horn of Africa. Within a short time, the price of a grocery shopping basket has risen by 36% in Somalia.

EAST AFRICA has been hit by the worst drought in four decades. The extreme weather caused by climate change has impacted Somalia, the eastern parts of Ethiopia and northern Kenya in particular. These regions have not seen normal seasonal rain for almost two years.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to a quarter (approximately 4.1 million) of the Somali population need urgent humanitarian food aid. By some NGO estimates, this figure is over six million people. In Kenya, more than two million people need food aid. According to estimates by experts, up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia. As the drought continues, the humanitarian disaster is expected to grow and spread.

somalinaiset istuvat maassa. Taustalla näkyy teltta.
PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Drought is not the only factor affecting the food shortage in Somalia and Kenya; rather, what is at stake is a multiple crisis which has been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. As much as 90 per cent of the cereals consumed in Somalia are imported from Ukraine and Russia. Since February, the price of wheat has risen in Somalia by as much as 300 per cent.

In April, Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted 400,000 euros for a humanitarian relief operation in Kenya and Somalia. Now we have started our operation.

Food prices sky-rocketed after the war broke out in Ukraine

Ikali Karvinen is the country Director of FCA Somalia. He has been following very closely the dramatic impact of inflation on the price of food and the effects of drought on the food crisis.

“Because of inflation, the price of food has gone up by 30 per cent,” he says. “The same goes for the price of fuel.”

The price of essential foods like cooking oil, maize, millet, sesame seeds, peas and beans has even doubled in places. Approximately 70 per cent of the Somali population lives below the poverty line, meaning people live on less than two euros a day. As the value of money falls due to inflation, the little money will buy even less of anything: for example, food. Indeed, inflation combined with drought has been estimated to impact the lives of up to six million people in Somalia.

“While the climate crisis is greatly impacting especially East Africa, this particular spring the war in Ukraine is impacting food and energy inflation possibly the most,” says Director Karvinen. “So, here we now have two major crises overlapping each other.”

Somalinainen pitää sylissään vauvaa. Kuvassa myös toinen lapsi.
Food crisis is affecting more than a quarter of Somalia’s population. The children under the age of five are among those most affected. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

He continues by saying the nomadic shepherd population in Somalia is currently in a very dire situation. The drought is killing the cattle and along with their cattle, families are losing their livelihoods. The threat for Somalia is that a situation like the 2011 famine will repeat itself.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, FCA began distributing cash aid. This is a fast and humane way of helping which saves on the cost of logistics.

“Cash aid works as long as there are markets, be they shops or marketplaces, where people can buy food and other basic supplies and where money has some value,” Director Karvinen explains.

Great part of Somali people depend on their animals and agriculture. They are in a very vulnerable position in the times of drought. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

The falling value of money can become a problem for cash aid distributions, however.

“If inflation continues to rise at this rate, we will face some serious questions,” Director Karvinen continues. “Will it make sense to continue with cash aid or will we be forced to start distributing food at some point?”

Lapsi katsoo äitinsä sylistä Somaliassa. Lapsen ympärillä on äidin vaatetta.
In Somalia, food and cash distributions have been hindered by the security situation. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Food distributions demand logistics

Food distribution demands logistics. In Somalia, the process can be hindered by the security situation which is currently extremely bad according to Director Karvinen. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is also continuing to spread in East Africa.

By mid-summer, the humanitarian operation of FCA will seek to distribute cash aid to the areas most affected by the food shortage; this will include 700 Somali and 600 Kenyan households. The operation aims to reach especially those families who have had to leave their homes due to the disaster and those most threatened by malnutrition. Households that rely on widowed women or children for their subsistence are at the very heart of FCA relief work.

Contact information:

Ikali Karvinen, Country Director for Somalia, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050, tel. +252 617 234 597.

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa 

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa

The worst drought in forty years is hitting East Africa, pushing many in the region to the brink of famine. Despite the situation, governments across the Europe, including Finland, are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine. Tackling one crisis at the cost of another is not a sustainable solution.

IN KENYA, an assessment conducted by Finn Church Aid (FCA) revealed that some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, water pans and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel over seven kilometers to collect water. Almost one million head of livestock have died in Garissa county in Kenya. 

In Somalia, armed clashes, terrorist attacks, growing prices of food commodities are increasing the hardship caused by the drought.

“Aid actors are afraid that violence is making access to hard-to-reach communities even more limited, even to assess what the needs are, and we fear the worst,” said Ikali Karvinen, FCA Country Director, Somalia. 

Climate change is a man-made crisis

FCA is assisting people in Kenya and Somalia with cash transfers, particularly to families without adult members or those headed by pregnant or lactating mothers, which will allow these people to buy food until the rainy season. However, the World Food Programme reports that 13 million people are facing acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in East Africa.

“This is another man-made crisis, just like Ukraine, except that the cause of the drought is climate change,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “Those of us who still remember the famine in Ethiopia in the ‘80s are haunted by it. This is a similar event across a larger scale, but we have the means to prevent the suffering that the ‘80s famine caused.” 

“I have eight children. This drought has affected my family greatly. There are days we go without eating. Life is tough here. Sometimes the food we get here is rice and beans”, said Fatuma Garane, a widow from Balambala, Garissa County, in Kenya. PHOTO: BRIAN OTIENO/FINN CHURCH AID

While climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, the funding needed to aid those who suffer is decreasing. Simultaneously, governments in Europe are reallocating funding to Ukraine. In 2017, 10% of development funding from Finland was spent on humanitarian programmes. In 2022, it is anticipated to be only 7% with the Finnish government planning to further slash aid levels for 2023.

Tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. Concurrently these decisions seriously harm the relations created with developing countries. 

“Developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it,” said Hemberg. 

Contact information:


Executive Director, Mr. Jouni Hemberg, jouni.hemberg[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +358 50 325 9579


FCA’s Somalia Country Director, Mr. Ikali Karvinen, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +252 617 234 597, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050

Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

As I am writing this, the Covid-19 pandemic is dominating the news and daily politics for the second year running. In fact, this topic has overshadowed other news to such an extent that it is hard to remember what went on in the world before Covid-19 testing, vaccines and coronavirus variants. Climate change, protracted conflicts, swarms of locusts destroying crops – does any of that ring a bell?

The work carried out by Finn Church Aid focuses on providing education, securing livelihoods and building peace. The objective of long-term development cooperation is to help entire communities become stable and self-sufficient.  

We also respond to more urgent needs. After a massive explosion in the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut in August 2020, we delivered emergency assistance to those affected. When Covid-19 stopped trade and food deliveries at state borders in several parts of the world, we continued to provide emergency food assistance.  

Some of the areas where we promote development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peace do naturally overlap, just as global crises are inextricably intertwined. Many of our programme countries faced profound challenges even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes in climate and protracted conflicts have caused food crises, health crises and displacement of millions of people. 

In South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, devastating floods have left two thirds of the country’s 11 million inhabitants in need of some form of humanitarian assistance as they are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Syria also has a disastrous decade of suffering behind it. This conflict-ridden country has spiralled into an economic crisis that, for Syrian people, translates into a shortage of food and lost income opportunities. An entire generation of children has gone to school in emergency conditions. 

Poika kirjoittaa vihkoon luokassa.
Muhammad Abdo Hijzai from East Ghouta is a 13-year-old boy who participated in remedial education in, for example, mathematics, supported by Finn Church Aid. Photo: Abu Talib Al-Buhaya.

The global pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of many countries. In Nepal, more than 25 per cent of the country’s GDP has in recent years consisted of remittances by Nepalese working abroad. With the pandemic forcing migrant workers to return home, families have struggled for more than a year, trying to cope without an adequate income to guarantee a decent living. 

But the pandemic has not brought all progress to a halt, even if we sometimes feel like it. In a number of projects, the situation has forced us to take a big leap forward in technology. For instance, in Kenya we distributed radios to enable women to participate in peace dialogues. Our objective in such projects was to make communities better equipped to resolve conflicts involving natural resources. 

Without a doubt, we will face more challenges in the future. Our climate is becoming increasingly harsh, and in these changing conditions, it is likely that more epidemics will circulate in the population. Natural disasters will force people to leave their homes in growing numbers. According to forecasts, a high population growth rate in Africa will result in massive migration within the continent.  

But the good news is that resilient societies are able to take better precautions and prepare for disasters. In time, the Covid-19 crisis will pass, and this is when Finn Church Aid’s efforts to improve education, support livelihoods and forge peace will bear fruit and produce even more tangible results. Those who have participated in our projects have been building a stronger foundation for their lives, enabling them to pursue a brighter future. 

Ulriikka Myöhänen, Communications Specialist.

This text twas originally published in our Annual Report 2020 that came out recently. Would you like to know more about what was done?

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Emerging stronger after Covid-19

Why the coronavirus pandemic should not put all other crises on hold

The coronavirus pandemic does not mean that other crises are less urgent but it has rapidly restricted work with development cooperation, humanitarian aid, peacebuilding and climate change. We now have to fight many battles at the same time.

When the severity of the coronavirus dawned upon the world, I was in a remote location in South Sudan. In New Fangak’s swamp, movement is possible either by foot or boat. There are no roads or cars, and the isolation is sealed with only one flight a week.

New Fangak was severely hit by the conflict that broke out in South Sudan in 2013. The ruins of a hospital serve as a reminder of the crisis – and of its vulnerability to yet another one.

For the time being, New Fangak’s inaccessibility might keep it safe from the coronavirus. The people are currently concerned about the severe lack of food. Unprecedented floods had wiped out crops and drowned cattle. Many survive on porridge made from tree leaves.

Imagine being at the brink of famine, at the frontlines of climate change and on top of that facing the threat of a deadly global pandemic.

The pandemic poses a severe risk to work against climate change

The battle against the coronavirus has put the world in a difficult position with respect to its most vulnerable people.

People in countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the coronavirus, especially the world’s 65 million refugees and internally displaced people. Development and humanitarian aid operations have to adapt to tackle the virus.

At the same time, organisations are forced to scale back their operations and call home international staff. Education projects are halted when governments close schools, peace efforts are delayed with bans on gatherings, and humanitarian aid workers avoid travelling to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus to remote locations with no healthcare.

Some of the restrictions designed for tackling the pandemic might look like they would serve the battle against climate change. The coronavirus has rapidly restricted global travel and consumption, far more abruptly and efficiently than the anti-climate change movement. But it is not an achievement. The pandemic actually poses severe risks for work against climate change as prosperity declines and suffering economies urgently need stimulation. Emissions can even increase when industries are back in business.

The political will for financial commitments to tackling climate change might decrease as a result of the cost of fighting the coronavirus. The same risk is evident for any other crisis as major donors fear a global recession might hit them at home.

But the economic decline will have more severe effects on low-income countries, like those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of families live from hand to mouth. A woman working at any local market usually spends her daily income to feed her family in the evening. When she is forced to close her business her family suffers the consequences the very next day.

A prolonged crisis with societal lockdowns risks exacerbating poverty and cause discontent.

People in fragile countries like South Sudan are facing multiple crises but governments and organisations are forced to restrict development cooperation and humanitarian work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We have to respond to many crises at the same time

It is clear that we need to fight the coronavirus today. The need for health care support, dissemination of information, thorough hygiene practices and social distancing is acute.

But we cannot afford to forget everything else. At the other end of the urgency-scale are much-needed systemic changes to battle the climate crisis. We cannot give up on the need to rethink transport, infrastructure, food and energy production and much more. We also need to continue peacebuilding efforts and respond to food crises that are key for stability.

While the battle against the coronavirus is a hundred-meter sprint – and the race is well underway – the battle against climate change is a marathon, and all other crises fall in between. We just have to run all races at the same time.

Because all crises are bound together by the need for global cooperation and resilient societies.

Erik Nyström is Finn Church Aid’s Manager of International Communications.

Uganda: More support needed to fight environmental degradation around refugee settlements

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, 16 non-governmental organisations call for urgent action to prevent and mitigate the impact of environmental degradation around refugee settlements in Uganda.

Uganda currently hosts more than 1.25 million refugees, most of whom rely on natural resources in and around refugee settlements for domestic fuel, construction and livelihoods. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Uganda’s refugees consume at least 1.1 million tonnes of firewood every year, as fuel wood is the primary source of energy security. Each individual in the refugee community is estimated to consume up to 1.6 kg firewood per day, compared with host community members who consume up to 2.1 kg per day. This puts a strain on the availability of wood, grass and other resources in refugee-hosting districts.

The impact is not only environmental – it also fuels increased competition over natural resources between refugees and the Ugandan host community. While the latter continue to show considerable generosity in hosting refugees, they rely on the same trees, grass and water sources as refugees. As scarcity increases, so do tensions over access to, and management of, natural resources. Violent incidents affecting both refugees and Ugandans have already occurred, as documented in research done in Lamwo, Adjumani and Arua by International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI).

Scarcity of resources has an acute impact on women and girls who are responsible for the day-to-day collection of firewood and grass for thatched roofs. They can spend 12-24 hours collecting firewood which they have to seek further from their homes, putting them at risk of sexual violence. Refugees and Ugandans living around the refugee settlements also rely on the same natural resources to make a living. Sustainable management of natural resources is therefore key to enable Uganda’s promoted policy of self-reliance and inclusion of refugees, especially as humanitarian assistance suffers from insufficient funding.

National and international actors responding to the refugee situation in Uganda, including signatories to this statement, are investing in alternative sources of energy and efforts to mitigate environmental damage. Environmental protection has been identified as a key priority for Uganda’s refugee response. The Ugandan government is developing a water and environment response plan to address environmental degradation in refugee-hosting areas, under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and supported by the humanitarian response led by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UNHCR.

But more concrete action has to be undertaken on the ground. Tree planting in and around the refugee sites has been significant, but remains insufficient. The government of Uganda, UNHCR and its partners should increase reforestation efforts, and ensure follow-up. As less than half of the refugee population and 20% of the host community use energy-saving stoves, the same actors should increase their distribution and the efficiency of their use. Community dialogues and sensitisation have yielded results, but need to be scaled up to allow refugee and host community leaders to adequately detect, prevent and address tensions around natural resources.

To do so, we call on international partners to direct resources towards programmes that address environmental degradation and promote peaceful co-existence among communities affected by displacement. International commitments to share responsibility with major refugee-hosting countries like Uganda have to be translated into real action and, crucially, financial support.

More refugees continue to arrive, and large-scale returns to their country of origin remain untenable in the short time, given the protracted situations in Uganda’s neighbouring countries. Without a significant increase in investment, environmental degradation in refugee-hosting districts will have serious consequences for many years to come.

World Refugee Day takes place each year on 20 June. This year’s global theme is #StepWithRefugees — Take A Step on World Refugee Day

Signed:

  1. ACT Alliance
  2. Action Against Hunger
  3. BRAC
  4. Care International
  5. Danish Church Aid (DCA)
  6. Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
  7. Finn Church Aid
  8. International Justice Mission (IJM)
  9. International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)
  10. International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  11. Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
  12. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
  13. Oxfam International
  14. Plan International
  15. Save the Children
  16. World Vision

Swamp offered shelter from war in South Sudan – “The worst part of the journey was hunger”

The region of al-Sudd in South Sudan is one of the biggest swamps in the world. The region has offered a refuge for people escaping the war. During the hardest times of the war, people waded through wetlands, risking running into crocodiles and snakes, and ate water lily fruits to stay alive.

OLD FANGAK, SOUTH SUDAN. The little mango trees sprouting promising shoots in Samuel Gony Gori’s pots are a veritable miracle, considering the cracking soil surrounding the 50-year-old farmer’s land, and the unbearable, nearly 40-Celsius heat in Old Fangak in the daytime.

Samuel waters his plants with water from nearby Zeraf River. Working the foot-operated water pump may be hard work, but it keeps his hope of a successful crop alive. The mangoes require care, and without the water pump, farming would be impossible during the dry season.

“In the harvest seasons, I sell a lot of produce at the market, and with my savings, my family can enjoy two good meals a day. My income is even enough to pay for the children’s clothing.”

Fangak is located in the north, near the border with Sudan. The peace negotiated last autumn is a reality here, but the soil is unrelenting and farming is hard. In the south of the country, the region of Equatoria – located on the Equator – is known as the breadbasket of South Sudan, and a saying originating from there goes, “If you throw a seed in the ground, it grows into a giant mango tree.” Nevertheless, farmers have left Equatoria because of the fighting still going on in the region.

South Sudanese Samuel Gony Gory grows mango trees.

Samuel Gony Gory grows mango trees.

Samuel radiates the confidence of a person who has overcome the worst. His family witnessed the painful turns of the South Sudanese civil war. Two years ago, they were in the middle of a famine caused by the fighting in the small town of Bentiu in neighbouring Unity State.

“There was absolutely nothing to eat. First I stopped farming because of the constant gunfire. Then our relatives started to disappear, and we decided to seek shelter here,” recalls Samuel.

The water pump has caught the interest of the youngest South Sudanese children in the village.

The water pump has caught the interest of the youngest in the village.

The swamp region of al-Sudd is one of the biggest in the world. The name is Arabic and means “barrier.” The swamp is so difficult to cross that back in the days when explorers were searching for the source of the White Nile, they got stuck in the wetlands of al-Sudd.

Old Fangak is a former British garrison town whose old buildings were destroyed in the civil war. The population mostly consists of Nuer people, the archrivals of the Dinka people represented by President Salva Kiir.

During the civil war, Old Fangak became a haven for refugees. While in 2013, the population was 5,000, last year the number was up to almost 50,000.

The soldiers did not think it was worth the trouble to brave the swamp, the inner parts of which can only be reached by boat via Zeraf River, an arm of the White Nile, or by plane  – that is, unless you are running for your life. Families seeking shelter from fighting and famine have escaped soldiers by treading through the swamp despite crocodiles and poisonous snakes.

In the deepest parts of the swamp, adults carried children on their shoulders.

“The worst part of the journey was hunger,” says Samuel. His family survived the journey that took a month by eating the fruits of water lilies.

“It’s hard to say whether it was hunger or bullets that killed them.”

“Many people who fled at the same time as we did had been starving for so long that their strength had ran out. We were forced to leave people behind as the soldiers found us time after time,” recalls Samuel.

“It’s hard to say whether it was hunger or bullets that killed them.”

In June 2017, the UN declared that the famine was over, but since then, the situation has only gotten worse.

In February 2019, the UN estimated that over six million people live in acute food shortage. That is more than half of the South Sudanese population. About 1.5 million are on the brink of famine.

“Peace is a prerequisite for any improvement in the situation,” says Moses Habib, humanitarian coordinator for FCA. The peace deal has raised optimism, but the people who left their homes are still too afraid to return.

At the same time, international aid is decreasing at an alarming rate.

“Initiating self-sufficient food production takes time. Food aid is still vital so that people have the energy to think further ahead than until the meal for the next day,” says Habib.

South Sudanese Nyarom Jiech Chuol is a single mother with seven children.

Nyarom Jiech Chuol is a single mother with seven children.

In the midmorning, the Zeraf River’s boat traffic flows towards the market in downtown Old Fangak.

Canoes are carved from coconut tree trunks. The precious fish are shielded from the sun with grass. Fish is cheaper than meat, and the catch does not always reach the market before being sold.

Mother of seven, Nyarom Jiech Chuol, buys a bunch of tilapia at the market for about two euros.

“I provide for my children by collecting firewood and I sleep through the night in peace, without gunfire,” says Nyarom. She ran from the fighting in Bentium that led to famine.

FCA has assisted 1,000 farmers and 500 fishermen in the Old Fangak area by providing seeds, water pumps, nets, hooks, and education. In addition, 1,000 families have received cash assistance.

FCA also supports 30 schools in Fangak, with over 16,000 pupils.

The huts made out of waterproof tarpaulins and bamboo represent the population of the region. Many internally displaced persons use the tarpaulins given out by aid organisations, while the locals have roofs made of grass or tin.

The repercussions of the war can be seen at the market. In wait of the next crop, the selection of vegetables on offer is nonexistent. Onions cost half a euro a piece. Before the war, one euro was enough to feed a family for a day, now the prices are tenfold. Food production is insufficient, inflation is out of control, and imported food is expensive.

Nyarom has received cash assistance from FCA in every three months. The assistance of about 50 euros brings variety to her children’s diet. Nyarom says that she saw with her own eyes where the food shortage began.

“It started when we had to leave our cultivations and our livestock. Both cattle and people were burned alive in their clay huts,” she says.

Elizabeth Gal is a dedicated farmer.

Elizabeth Gal is a dedicated farmer.

Because of how isolated it is, Old Fangak depends on the goods delivered from capital Juba via the Nile. Before the peace deal in September, the goods often did not make it past the checkpoints along the way.

Now, the route is easier to travel. However, there is still too little food because of the fighting still going on in Equatoria.

According to Habib, improving the situation in Equatoria is crucial. At present, over one million people have fled the region and crossed the border to Uganda, and the parties who did not sign the peace deal continue to fight.

“Without peace, people won’t return to their crops, and without food, there is no steady foundation for peace,” says Habib.

Nevertheless, the Nile deliveries have provided farmers with more seeds and tools. Next to Samuel’s crops, 43-year-old Elizabeth Gal waits for a new hose for her water pump.

The furrows in her plot of land are as straight as a pin, but the field is completely dry and cracked because the hose is too short to reach the field from the river.

“As long as I have the seeds and tools, I can do anything,” she assures us.

Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho
Text: Erik Nyström 
Photos: Patrick Meinhardt 

Finn Church Aid to assist Yemen in water supply with 100 000 euros

Finn Church Aid (FCA) has granted 100 000 euros from its relief fund to Yemen. After years of ongoing conflict, the water supply in the country has collapsed, and different waterborne diseases, including cholera, torment especially the children and elderly in vulnerable condition.

FCA’s emergency assistance is channelled through a local partner to strengthen the water supply in Dhamar governorate, where the conflict has left over 200 000 people without water.

”Yemen has not been FCA’s programme country, but we want to be part of the emergency relief as the needs in the country are massive. As a consequence of the prolonged crisis, needs are still growing and people suffer from famine, undernutrition and lack of potable water and health care,” says FCA’s Head of Humanitarian Assistance Eija Alajarva.

According to estimations, the cholera epidemic in Yemen is the largest in the world. The World Health Organisation WHO estimates that there are over one million cholera cases in the country.

With FCA’s support, two water systems will be constructed to secure the water supply of 8 000 people in Dhamar. In addition, water committees will be created to manage the systems and control the quality of the water. Furthermore, solar panels will be installed to pump the water.

Yemen has been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East even before the conflict started in 2015. Years of war have had devastating effects on the country, and the humanitarian crisis has worsened alarmingly during the year 2018 and spring 2019. According to the UN, three quarters of the population of 30 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Buzi river delta was one of the worst hit areas in Mozambique – Amelia and her family spent four days on the roof

The family has nothing but rotten maize to eat. Rescuers have had difficulties in delivering aid to the isolated Buzi area.

Buzi, Mozambique. Amelia Tausene, 35, has a house and a field of maize and rice. The field has been her family’s source of income. Family has lived in Buzi for a long time, and they’ve seen the Buzi river flooding from time to time. Usually it has not been bad enough to disturb their daily life.

According to Amelia, harvests have never been troubled by floods before. This time flood waters took everything, including seeds for a new crop.  Amelia and her family, have nothing left, she says.

Her children Noel and Gustavo show their school books, which are now useless.

From what’s left, you can see that they’ve been diligent with their homework. Their school is also destroyed, and the two boys don’t know when they can continue learning again.

Buzi district and town seem to be one of the worst hit areas of cyclone Idai, which destroyed houses and caused devastating floods two weeks ago in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Amelia’s family has spent the last days searching for remains of their maize. The little that they have found, is now drying out in the sun. That’s also what they’ve been trying to eat, but it’s rotten and doesn’t taste good. Still, that’s all they have for food at the moment.

Finn Church Aid delivers emergnecy aid in Buzi, Mozambique.

Lorenzo Armando, 63 and Marieta Manuel, 44, have seven children; in the picture Ruben, 6, and grandchild Maja. Photo: Natalia Jidovanu

“We were only thinking of staying alive”

The cyclone was something Amelia had never experienced before. But what came after was worse. It rained for two days after the cyclone, and, at the beginning of the third day, at 6 AM, the water level started rising rapidly.

Amelia’s house is on higher ground, almost at the level of the nearby tree tops, and by 11 o’clock Amelia, her husband and the three children were stuck on their roof. No one had left their houses, because they simply did not realize how bad it would get.

They had nowhere to go. However, they were lucky to be on the roof – other people had only tree tops. Amelia and her family had to stay on the roof for four days. They had nothing to eat, and the children were complaining, but she could not do anything.

They survived by drinking flood water until a rescue boat came and took them down, and to a temporary shelter.

Local rescuers tell us how a mother in this same area was stuck on a tree top with her infant.  After a few days she dozed off for a few seconds and dropped her child in the water. People of this isolated area have been through a lot, too much.

For us, it took 4,5 hours to reach Buzi town by road from Beira. By boat on Buzi river it takes three hours.  The river is the reason why so many people have settled in this area. It’s ideal for farming.

“The worst thing about the days of being stranded on the roof was hunger”, Amelia says. “We were only thinking of staying alive.” Now, when the floods are gone, Amelia has no idea what she’s going to do.

“You see that I’m just sitting here, and this is what I have left”, she says, pointing at her destroyed house and the maize field that’s still partly under the water.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Finn Church Aid delivers emergency aid in Buzi, Mozambique.

Lorenzo and his family now stay in Buzi town, in the ruins of their son’s house. Their own house was next to it, but is now completely destroyed. Photo: Natalia Jidovanu

Farmer’s nightmare

Lorenzo Armando, 63 was born in Buzi. He has been farming since he was young. He says he has never seen a weather like this in his 63 years. In 2000, there was a small cyclone and flood, but water levels never reached as high as this time. Floods have previously stayed near the river Buzi, which runs through the town of Buzi.

Lorenzo had 1,5 hectares of land almost ready to be harvested, but now all that is left and edible fits into a bucket. And, it tastes bad when cooked.

Farming has become more complicated during the recent years; one cannot be sure when to expect the rains to start. When he was younger, rains were easy to predict. Now, the cycle of seasons is unreliable, and dry spells have become longer. That has a negative effect on the harvest.

On the day of the storm, Lorenzo and his family were together in their house – his wife and two children Ruben and Maya. When the winds got unbearable, they left the house, and shortly after they saw the house collapse.

Now there’s nothing left. But the worst was, when water started rising rapidly, two days after the cyclone. During those two days they had been trying to recover some clothes and equipment from the ruins of the house, and had left it outside. When water reached them, they started to move their belongings to a higher ground, but by the time they were done, water had already reached the same level. They panicked and decided to flee to a nearby guesthouse, which had two floors. They escaped to the top floor and stayed there until they were rescued.

Now the couple sleeps out in the open air. They have heard of people in the area, who have lost their lives, or been swept away by the floods. Lorenzo and his family consider themselves lucky to have survived, but they don’t know, what to do now in order to recover from their losses. Farming was their livelihood, and now the harvest is gone.

Buzi’s isolation makes it hard to receive relief. Luckily, they have received some rice and pasta as emergency relief.

What’s next?

“To try to build at least one room for the family to live in”, Lorenzo says.

Text: Erik Nyström/FCA,
Photos: Natalia Jidovanu/FCA

Climate change forces Kenyan pastoralist families to send their daughters to school

In Kenya’s poorest region, going to school requires great sacrifices, but David Edapal is convinced that education guarantees his daughter a good future.

There is a rustle of dry twigs as goats try to make their way out of their pen through narrow openings. 12-year-old Rebecca Atubo carefully guides baby goats into their own cage before letting the adult goats loose. Soon, the goats are ambling towards pastures in the gentle early-morning sun.

In a few hours, the temperature rises and turns to relentless heat, and it is hard to find shade in the desert-like environment.

”Herding is hard work when it’s so hot, and you’re thirsty all the time,” Rebecca describes.

Still, Rebecca is obedient and does what is asked of her.

For thousands of years, the nomadic people of Northwest Kenya have made their living raising cattle, and children have taken responsibility for the family’s goats and cows at a young age.

However, the distance to pastures has grown longer. There is no green in sight in the yellowish-gray landscape outside the family’s huts. Rebecca’s father David Edapal has been worried for a long time. He cannot say how old he is, but the lines on his face reveal he has seen several decades in Turkana, the poorest county in Kenya.

”The weather has grown warmer, and there are much fewer rains than before. In order to get water, we have to walk for two hours one way every day to get to the nearest river,” says Edapal.

 

Rebecca says she prefers school to herding. Because of the heat, herding is hard work for both children and adults, and according to Rebecca, the thirst is the worst part.

Tested by drought

Severe periods of drought are testing Turkana more and more frequently. The drought in 2017 was the worst in decades. Hundreds of thousands of animals died due to lack of water as well as diseases.

This was a hard blow for the pastoralists, who traditionally move to follow the rains. Livestock are like a bank account on legs – they are used to fulfil all needs. Livestock provide milk and meat for food. Selling livestock brings in money to pay for things such as healthcare.

In addition, men need livestock to pay dowry to the family of the bride when they get married. The death of  livestock hit families like an economic recession.

”Animals ravaged by drought cannot be sold or eaten, and they provide much less milk,” Edapal explains.

The crisis also fuels tensions among pastoralist people. They compete for the shrinking pastures, and extreme poverty makes stealing cattle a tempting prospect. A camel shepherd passing by carries an assault rifle on his shoulder to keep thieves at bay. Adding to the insecurity is a stream of firearms coming to Turkana across the border from neighbouring war-torn South Sudan.

For a pastoralist, questions about property are about as personal as asking a Finn about their salary. Most keep the number of livestock to themselves. However, Edapal reveals that cattle thieves took about two hundred of the family’s animals.

The family fled the insecurity into their current place of residence in the village of Ageles near the town of Lokichar. Edapal’s wife Aseken Namasi says all their hardships hurt her heart.

”The worst moment was when thieves killed four of my friends in front of my eyes when I was retrieving water,” she says. ”You can always get more livestock, but you can never replace a human being.”

 

Rebecca Atubo, 12, (in front) walking to school with her friends. It is important to have the school close to home, as the journey to school is filled with danger in Turkana.

 

12-year-old Rebecca Atubo’s (middle) parents David Edapal (left) and Aseken Namasi sent their daughter to school. The shift from nomadic culture to a view of life that values education is seen strong in Turkana.

Almost all inhabitants of Turkana are pastoralists. Boys are brought up to raise cattle, and girls are expected to add to the family’s wealth by marrying. The dowry goes to the entire extended family.

Child marriage is still common. Because of the expectations of the traditional lifestyle, pastoralist people used to have little respect for education.

When Alice Loro Lele got to school age, her mother wanted her to go to school, but her father resisted. In anger, her father threw them both out, and with no livestock, they were destitute.

After comprehensive education, Alice could not afford to go to high school. Today, Alice is a 20-year-old mother of three, and lives in a hut in Lokichar with her mother.

”I married at 15, because I thought my husband would take care of us. I was foolish, and I didn’t know much about anything,” Alice says, clearly upset.

Her husband never paid dowry, which is another example of the plight of the nomadic people. As a gifted student, Alice got a job as a preschool teacher. She also started a general store. But her husband kept all the profits and started drinking. Alice gave birth to two children, but her husband did not care about them.

”When I was pregnant for the third time, my husband was going to get a second wife. I left him and moved back in with my mother,” Alice says.

Turkana lives under the poverty line

Places like Turkana are far from the reality of the capital Nairobi. Kenyan economy has grown at a rapid pace. Nairobi is teeming with skyscrapers, technology, and innovative mobile phone applications. In Turkana, most people live in villages with no electricity or running water.

In Nairobi, 22 percent of the people live under the poverty line, while in Turkana, the number is 88 percent. The disparity is largely due to education. In Nairobi, almost everyone has at least completed comprehensive school – in Turkana, 18 percent.

Pastoralists are moving into towns of Turkana with hope of work, but few of them even know how to read.

”We encourage families to send their children to school. More and more people see this as a solution in the long term,” says FCA education coordinator Miriam Atonia.

 

Hundreds of thousands of animals died during the drought of 2017. The drought had catastrophic repercussions for the nomadic people whose livelihood depends on raising cattle.

Things are moving in the right direction. Today, over half of the school-aged children and young people in Turkana go to school. Almost 27,000 started school in the poorest counties in Kenya in FCA projects during 2018.

Alice was offered a scholarship to study at a high school in Lokichar. She also thanks her mother for her support: mother looks after Alice’s children while she is at school.

”My heart breaks because I see my children so rarely. But we have to make some sacrifices; if we’re idle, we can’t improve our situation,” she says.

”I want to become a teacher because I want to encourage girls to go to school. I can give them the kind of advice I needed myself.”

It is hard to communicate the benefits of education to parents who have led a nomadic life. Edapal and Namasi did not go to school, but after a great deal of consideration, they decided to send their daughter Rebecca off to get an education.

”I have seen how the people of my generation, those who went to school, are succeeding.  If we had received an education, we would be sleeping on mattresses, and our hut would have a tin roof instead of cloth,” he muses.

 

Alice Loro Lele (left) goes to school and takes care of her three children. She happy, that she decided to return to school.

 

A woman with an education is independent

After letting the goats out to pasture, it only takes Rebecca a few minutes of walking to get to the first lesson of the day. Edapal compares education to marriage – Rebecca is now married to school. An educated woman does not need to depend on others. She can make her own decisions regarding marriage once she is has finished her schooling.

Edapal feels proud when after her school day, Rebecca tells him about what she has learned.

”I hope Rebecca finds herself a job she likes, and God willing, can even help her parents in the future. Education provides lots of opportunities which I can’t even imagine.”

Text: Erik Nyström, Translation: Elina Vuolteenaho, Photos: Tatu Blomqvist / Ville Nykänen

Take part in the Common Responsibility Campaign at yhteisvastuu.fi, In addition, see the touching TV documentaries on the Yle channels starting from the beginning of February.

 

Somalia: EU and FCA to provide 3 000 children with education in drought and war affected region of Baidoa

With EU humanitarian funds amounting to €700 000, FCA will rehabilitate schools, provide school supplies and train teachers in Baidoa, a hub for internally displaced people in Somalia.

This ‘education in emergencies’ intervention will address the lack of education for children of displaced families, but also of vulnerable host communities in Baidoa. Some 250 kilometres west of the capital Mogadishu, Baidoa has around 190 000 inhabitants and is a major hub for internally displaced people in Somalia’s Bay region.

Combined effects of droughts and other ongoing crises have damaged Baidoa’s economy. Not only are people’s livelihoods opportunities limited, a large number of children do not have access to quality education. There are only 14 public schools and no separate schools for primary and secondary levels.

“Years of devastating conflict and drought have led to mass displacement, interrupting the lives of ordinary Somalis and preventing children from going to school. The EU is committed to supporting education for children caught in crisis and giving displaced children the chances in life they deserve,” said Johan Heffinck, Somalia Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid.

An assessment revealed that a lack of classrooms and safe learning spaces in addition to limited awareness and information have contributed to this education deficit. The community has previously not considered education its first priority and few parents can afford the tuition fees. Classrooms have not been renovated for over 30 years and are missing furniture and supplies. The camps for displaced people lack learning facilities.

With EU humanitarian support, FCA will rehabilitate ten classrooms in four schools and construct gender-sensitive water and sanitation facilities. The organisation will provide training for 50 teachers in pedagogy, school curricula while strengthening the capacity of community education committees to ensure quality education.

FCA has garnered considerable experience in running education projects globally and particularly in Eastern Africa. FCA aims to improve access to inclusive education, teaching and learning by building teacher capacity.