Africa famine & unrest: ‘disaster on a disaster’
Trent Parker, Baptist Press
September 06, 2011

Africa famine & unrest: ‘disaster on a disaster’

Africa famine & unrest: ‘disaster on a disaster’
Trent Parker, Baptist Press
September 06, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia – “Me and my nation against the world, me

and my clan against the nation, me and my family against the clan, me and my

brother against the family, me against my brother.”

This ancient Somali proverb sheds light into the mindset of a fiercely

independent culture. However, Somalia’s independent spirit has been shaken:

Miniscule rainfall in two consecutive rainy seasons has triggered the worst

drought the Horn of Africa has faced in 60 years.

More than half of Somalia’s population – roughly 3.7 million people, including

400,000 children – is at risk as Somalia enters the fourth month of a

devastating famine. The famine, coupled with military unrest and anarchy in parts

of the country, has complicated the already volatile lives of Somalis.

“It’s a sort of a disaster on a disaster,” said Drew Carson*, a Christian

leader among the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East. “(Military

unrest) doesn’t help mitigate the heartbreaking situation that millions of

children are in.”

Photo by Melanie Blanding

Every five days in the Horn of Africa, Abdil Salat Ahmed walks with his 40 camels for a day and a half to reach fetid water just outside Garissa, Kenya. He said three camels died on this journey and his female camels stopped lactating from lack of nutrition, putting their young at risk and depriving his family of a source of milk.

Some militant groups – like Al-Shabab – are taking measures to block foreign

aid from being distributed and are denying Somali people the right to leave the


Even so, humanitarian organizations such as Baptist Global Response, the Red

Cross and UNICEF as well as many nations are providing funding to help with

famine relief although access into the heart of the famine area is restricted

by security concerns and remote, hard-to-reach locations.

Southern Baptists are supporting two feeding sites in the Horn of Africa and

assessments are underway in one other location. Funding for the initiative

comes through the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund.

“Humanitarian partners on the ground are saying the people are very responsive

to the expressions of God’s love they are seeing and hearing,” said Jeff

Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. “But the scope of this

crisis is enormous and rooted in long-term environmental and social problems.”

Famine in the Horn of Africa has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced

hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. An

estimated 12.4 million people are endangered by the crisis, which also has

affected Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Djibouti.

The disaster forces the culturally self-sufficient Somalis to seek help from

others –whether by fleeing to refugee camps, such as Dadaab in Kenya, or

through outside aid entering Somalia. The help is being met with mixed results

– some have eagerly embraced it while militant groups and rebels have sabotaged

and stolen relief food and supplies.

The Southern Baptist feeding operations have not been directly affected by

sabotage or stolen supplies, but the cultural dynamic of fear and mistrust

complicates all the relief operations.

Carson said Somalis are “afraid of people in their own country – of creating

war with them – and that creates a destabilization of that part of the world

that makes it near impossible to mitigate many of the problems.”

“It’s a desperate part of the world – there needs to be something done. There

needs to be a systematic answer,” Carson said. “In the meantime, there is a

need that Christians can respond to.”

In the midst of these hardships, Southern Baptists are sharing the love of

Christ with the hurting Somali people. That love is currently manifesting

itself in the form of funding for food relief and medical aid but it represents

a deeper love – and may be opening doors for the message of God’s love to be

widely proclaimed in this part of the world.

“Please keep praying that God would raise up a multitude of Christians to help

these people in their time of need,” Palmer said.

*Name has been changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trent Parker is a writer for the IMB in

Europe. Donations designated for the Horn of Africa crisis can be made through

the International Mission Board at www.imb.org.

A multimedia slideshow about the famine crisis is available at

www.vimeo.com/africastories/famine-imb. Resources for promoting the World

Hunger Fund can be found at www.worldhungerfund.com. Baptist Global Response is

on the Web at www.gobgr.org.)