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Mercy Responds to African Famine

July 28, 2011

By Mary Purcell, Mercy Global Action

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on countries to support U.N. agencies in their efforts to respond to the crisis in the Horn of Africa where more than 11 million people are in need of life-saving assistance as they face the worst drought in decades.

Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, used her inheritance in service of the needs of her time. Today, Sisters of Mercy throughout the world use their resources to respond to issues of global poverty such as this one.The crisis was brought on by the worst drought in over 60 years hitting parts of East Africa (Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia). Rains have failed over two seasons, with a strong La Niña event having a dramatic impact across the east coast of Africa. Now that this year’s wet season has officially ended, there is little prospect of rain or relief before September. As the rains failed so did the harvest and thousands of people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, have had their crops and livestock destroyed and are left without food. As a result, families in Somalia are being forced to leave their homes and flee to the city in the hope of finding food. Displacement camps are springing up in Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, to deal with this huge influx of people.

Many more have travelled, some for more than 20 days without food or water, across scorched scrubland from Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia. Many of the refugees are barefoot children, and levels of serious malnutrition amongst them in Ethiopia is exceeding 50 percent, while in Kenya levels are reaching 30 to 40 percent. Many of these child refugees from Somalia are dying of causes related to malnutrition either during the journey or very shortly after arrival at aid camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees described the needs for food, shelter, health services and other life-saving aid as “urgent and massive.”

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy Ireland are involved in doing some small-scale drought relief in Turkana in Kenya but it is the northeast of Kenya that is most badly affected by the influx of refugees from Somalia. We are therefore asking Sisters of Mercy and their associates to provide funds through UNICEF  to those who are directly providing relief to those worst affected.

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