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East Africa Pastoralists Try Different Strategies for Coping with Drought


Humanitarian aid workers say people are using different methods to cope with the current drought in the Horn of Africa and other parts of East Africa. In such a crisis, for example, pastoralists usually sell their livestock, whose value plummets as lush pastures dry up. Others affected by the drought try to cut down on food consumption, or try eating different types of food and look for new communities where they can earn money.

Steve Penny is the regional management disaster coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He told Voice of America reporter William Eagle, “We have seen in Kenya some illness and deaths caused by people eating maize and other commodities that have not been properly prepared or have some kind of insect infestation.“

He says international aid agencies are working to distribute food and to protect livestock: “We’re seeing this as a livelihoods crisis, so we have to protect livestock assets. In Kenya, for example, there are programs to buy livestock from poor families and then slaughter the livestock and distribute the meat. That is a very practical response.” The IFRC is also trying to improve access to water and to medicines to treat illnesses like meningitis contracted by weakened immune systems.

Getting aid to those suffering from drought is hampered by poor roads and in areas where there’s a risk of civil conflict: “We are seeing a resource conflict coming up in central and south Somalia, the Somali region of southeastern Ethiopia and northeastern Kenya…. Kenya’s Red Cross is finding it difficult to access areas of northeastern Kenya because of conflict.”

Penny says the IFRC has launched an appeal for 16 million dollars, and UN agencies are appealing for increased funding as well. He says local non-governmental organizations have been helping, too – often providing agencies with either money or food. But so far, he says the amount of resources provided do not match the need.

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