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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crisis In the Horn of Africa

In my last post, I let my readers know about the urgent food insecurity situation in Kenya and Somalia, and in the whole of the Horn of Africa.

I was surprised that several people were unaware of the drought in this part of the world. Many people seem to be experiencing inadequate information or not getting updates on the situation there in East Africa.

Here is a map to help you find the countries of Kenya and Somalia. See eastern Kenya just under Yemen in the middle east.

The United Nations has reclassified the situation from a  "drought" to a "famine" due to the severity of the crisis. If I understand correctly, they say the world has been slow to respond to the situation in the Horn of Africa.  By upgrading the description of the situation to a "famine" they hope to illustrate for the world just how critical the situation is. 

So in light of the urgency of the crisis, I've decided to present a few facts and show you some videos.  This will help you to get a quick overview of the situation and to help if you are so inclined.  There is plenty of information on line but I know that some people are unable to go on line for various reasons. Hopefully this overview (in blue font) which I've taken from the World Food Programme website and the videos will give you a quick introduction. If you have a connection fast enough to watch the videos please do. Each of them are only 2 and a half  minutes long.
Overview


Kenya is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent years. Northern Kenya is particularly affected and the government has declared the drought in this region a national disaster. The poor March to May 2011 long rains, coming successively after the failed October to December 2010, have greatly undermined the food security situation in the country. Up to 3.5 million people are affected by the drought and their plight has been worsened by high food prices resulting from both local and global factors. A mid-season assessment of the March to May long rains indicated a dismal performance of the rains and it is projected that up to 3.5 million people will need food assistance from August, a 1.1 million increase from the current 2.4 million. The actual number will be determined by the July long rains assessment, the results of which are expected in August.

The number of severely malnourished children admitted to hospital has increased by 78 percent this year compared to last year. Malnutrition rates among children below the age of five years have risen dramatically with reports of up to 37 percent in some northern districts -- more than double the emergency threshold of 15 percent. The most affected districts are Turkana, Moyale, Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit. WFP is providing supplementary food assistance to about 80,000 children and pregnant and nursing mothers. To curb the increase in the rate of malnutrition in northern Kenya, WFP is strengthening the supplementary food assistance safety net by linking it to general food distribution to ensure that the supplementary food is used to address malnutrition among those affected. In addition, WFP plans to give blanket supplementary food assistance to all children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating mothers in the six most affected districts in northern Kenya.

Dadaab refugee camp in north-eastern Kenya continues to receive large influxes of refugees mainly from Somalia with about 30,000 new arrivals in June alone. Kenya currently has about 447,000 refugees with Dadaab hosting about 368,000 and Kakuma in north-western Kenya about 79,000. Most of the refugees arriving in Dadaab have high malnutrition rates, having walked long distances with little or no food and water. WFP is providing the new arrivals with a 15-day ration of food at reception centres as they await registration after which they are included in the regular food register for refugees. WFP also provides refugees with supplementary food assistance for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers, in addition to a mid-morning meal for all primary and pre-primary school children and a take home ration for girls.

School meals remain an important safety net for many communities. WFP is providing school meals for 670,500 pre-primary and primary school children in arid and semi arid areas and in the slums in Nairobi. The Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of Education is also feeding 610,000 of school children through the Home Grown School Feeding programme.

WFP is gradually scaling down short term interventions in favour of recovery activities such as food-for-assets (FFA) and Seasonal Cash for Assets (SCFA) through which WFP, in collaboration with the government, is developing appropriate skills to enable communities to improve their resilience and adaptation to climate change in addition to encouraging them to invest in their future. About 830,000 people are benefitting under these projects. In addition, WFP is providing a market for small-scale farmers under the purchase for progress (P4P) programme. WFP, working with partners, also builds the capacity of the small-scale farmers in WFP procurement modalities, warehouse management, quality assurance and record keeping.

Kenya is a low-income food-deficit country with a GDP per capita of about US$759 (2009 World Bank) and a Gross National Income (GNI) of USD 1628 (2010 UNDP). The 2010 UNDP Human Development Report ranked Kenya among the “low human development” countries of the world, placing it 128th out of 169countries.

WFP operations in Kenya support the Government's efforts in implementing all eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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I think you can appreciate that the already critical situation in Kenya is being exacerbated by the devastating situation in Somalia.  The Kenyan people need help in addressing their own food insecurity issues and on top of that, they need help to address the overwhelming needs of the Somali refugees who are streaming into different parts of Kenya.  I am encouraged that some relief efforts will focus on activities which will hopefully minimize the need for short term interventions in future, at least as far as it is possible to do so for one can't predict natural disasters and wars which impact on food security.
 
This first video addresses the Kenyan food insecurity issues which I addressed in my post here.

This second video illustrates the plight of the Somalis who trek to the Dadaab Refugee Centre in Northern Kenya.




I have put up two buttons on my blog (see right side of my blog)  if you would like to make a donation to help alleviate the food insecurity crisis.  They will be up for a least a few days to make it easier for you to donate if you wish.

One button is for the World Food Programme.

The other button is for World Vision.

These organizations are seeking donations.  There are also other organizations seeking donations and to which you could donate if you choose. Some of these are the International Red Cross, Save the Children international and many others.  I'm sure you will know which ones exist in your respective countries.

Please don't feel that you can't help. I read on one website that even $1.00 (one dollar) will feed four kids. Every little bit helps.

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If you can't give money, each of the international aid organizations also has other ways you can help.  Please check out their websites and find out how.

In closing, I wanted to mention too that the World Food Programme has implemented an interesting way of giving which I just learned about today. It's called "wefeedback".
It's easy: You choose your favorite food, put it into the Feedback Calculator along with the estimated cost, and then calculate how many hungry children this would feed. The next step is to donate exactly that amount.

You can do that here
http://wefeedback.org/calculator

I used the calculator and found out I could have fed 32 children with the $8.00 I spent on an inexpensive dinner out at McDonald's. Now I don't eat out that often but I think I would rather spend it on feeding 32 children so I will be making that contribution very soon.
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 Pastor Jonah, of Missions of Hope also hopes to be undertaking food relief to the Pokot peoples in the Kerio Valley area  next month. 
If you would like to help him do that we would so appreciate it.  

You can click to donate here.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do You Know What You Will Eat Today?

My blogging friends,

If you know what you will eat today, you are very blessed indeed.

In case any of you are in doubt about whether there are starving Kenyans in the Nation of Kenya, East Africa, I wanted to post this opinion piece from the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. He was making a heart felt appeal to the nation through his opinion piece, which I have reproduced in full below (you can also click on the word "opinion piece" to be linked to the original post).

I also wanted to show you what my friend Jonah from the Missions of Hope has been doing in northern Kenya in terms of food aid.  The food relief effort shown in the photos, occurred in March of 2011. It was a relief effort to help the northern Pokot peoples.  Jonah would like to go again next month if he is able to get more food aid and helpers.

I am not making any appeal for money in this post (although anyone who wants to help Jonah with food aid to the Pokot is free to do so here). Mostly this post is to let you know what is happening at this moment in Kenya in case you haven't yet seen it on the news. My friends in Kenya are working as hard as they can to help themselves and help others. Please keep them in prayer. Pray too for peace and plenty in the Horn of Africa and for coordinated efforts at humanitarian aid.

Pokot tribal people in  northwestern Kenya gather for food relief

Village women gather excitedly around the convoy.
Jonah of Missions of Hope and his team of volunteers were able to take food to the Pokot peoples a few months ago. The food shortage has been ongoing for some time in parts of Kenya. 

 Jonah hopes to take another team with food relief in August. 
Please pray for him to have enough helpers and adequate supplies.
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BY UHURU KENYATTA
My fellow Kenyans it is abundantly clear that we are faced with a crisis of great magnitude.
Our fellow Kenyans are in dire need of food assistance, and several of them have trekked for long distances looking for food and water in order to sustain themselves.
Despite the efforts that the Government has put in place which includes medium to long term measures to address food security as articulated through the last Budget, I appreciate that this situation is urgent and demands urgent action.
These are times when we have to come together as a people, put aside our differences and realise that we are all Kenyans bound by a common heritage and it is our duty to preserve and uphold the dignity and livelihood of one another.
This spirit has been exhibited in the past; during early years of our independence under the call ‘Harambee’, we came together to build our emerging nation. More recently following the turmoil around the events of the last election we came together to assist one another.
My fellow Kenyans, today we are faced with a similar call to sacrifice. I sincerely applaud the Kenyans who have come together to raise money through the Kenyans for Kenya and Feed Kenya initiatives.
I encourage other Kenyans to also come together as individuals in their everyday lives to form groups and make their own contribution towards these efforts. Let us also keep contributing through MPESA to PayBill 111111 or KCB account 1133333338.
The ideal of Kenyans coming out to help other Kenyans is one that I support and has always been close to my heart. Even once we get through this crisis, because we will, this spirit should remain.
In addition to monetary contributions, I appeal to you to come out and volunteer to help our brothers and sisters who are facing this calamity.
It is in times like this that we must look beyond our differences and act as patriotic Kenyans. Always Remembering that we are Kenyans. One people under one flag.
(Mr Kenyatta is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance)

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For those of you unfamiliar with the MPesa is a system in Kenya of transferring money to others or paying bills through your mobile phone. This is a wonderful mechanism because many Kenyans live in rural areas without access to banks and bank accounts. In virtually every part of the country you will find a cell phone service provider. Safaricom is, I think the largest provider and they have MPesa but other cell providers have a similar service.

 In addition to starving Kenyans in parts of Kenya, there are now many Somalian refugees streaming into Kenya due to drought and famine. Please pray for this situation as international aid agencies and the United Nations grapple with the crisis.  Also pray for food to be able to be equitably and safely distributed in both Kenya and Somalia to people who really need it. Read more here about hunger in the Horn of Africa.


Photo credits: Jonah at Missions of Hope
Story Credit:  Capital FM Kenya Blog

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aloe Vera

These aloe plants are growing on the side of the highway on the way to Marigat, Kenya. Look at all the succulents in the background too. I'm not sure the name of that succulent tree but it is plentiful in these parts. As for the aloe vera plant there is a factory nearby which grows and harvests many fields of aloe vera.

Click on the badge to link to more scenes from around the world.

Pretty in Pink ~ Macro Flowers

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Famous line from Shakespeare's, Romeo & Juliet

 
I've always loved roses of any kind and especially if they are fragrant. These ones are located along a busy road way at the edge of someone's garden.  
Even when the rose begins to wither, it's beauty is still there.
 

 
 
 

Macro Flowers Saturday badge 1

Click the badge to join in Macro Flower Saturday.
or 
Join in the fun at Weekend Flowers hosted by the lovely, Tina.





Thursday, July 28, 2011

Macro Experiment & Skywatch Friday

This was a failed macro photo but as I looked at it, I realized I liked the effect of the stems against the lovely sky. Happy Sky Watch Friday everyone. I do have an entry for the macro flowers meme so come back a little later *wink.

Link up with Sky Watchers here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What to Do With Red Peppers

I love red peppers. They are my favourite of the various peppers available. I like them both for their brilliant colour and for their taste. Normally I eat them in red pepper hummus, as canned grilled peppers and peppers roasted with meat or chopped up in salads.

The other day while doing my usual blog reading I happened on a simple recipe for Red Pepper Soup.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows I only make simple and easy recipes.  If you would like to try it too, you can find the recipe at my blogging friend Lala's beautiful blog. You can get there by clicking here.

I didn't even wait for the soup to cool after I blended it because I made it for lunch and am in a bit of a rush today. It was still very nice warm and the rest has been saved for a refreshing cool soup later. Tip:  Make sure you peel off all the skins of the veggies or you will find some pieces in your blended soup.

Here it is garnished with freshly ground black pepper. I love freshly ground black pepper. I also added a dollop of plain yogurt before I ate it :-)
Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sit Down and Let me Tell You a Story

A big "welcome and thank you" to my newest followers, Rosie Gan, Lynette KillamEki Ahkwan, Susan and Brenda GreenYou may check out their lovely blogs on gardening,  travel, photography, personal reflections and testimonies, by clicking on their names.  I also want to thank everyone for their heartwarming responses to my last post A Little Boy goes Home.  If you missed it, please click on the title.
Happy reading.

Hello friends,

I'm inviting you to sit down with me. Put a cup of tea or coffee in hand and pull up a comfortable chair.  If you are experiencing a heat wave right now which some of you definitely are, then I offer you a cool and refreshing lemonade instead. Now are you comfortable? Good.

Today I wanted to share with you the story of an American named Ray. Ray served in the Vietnam war and now lives in Australia with his lovely wife Crystal Mary.  Crystal had to go in for knee replacement surgery this week so I pray she is recovering well.  She is a wonderful and loving support to her husband Ray and he needs her to get well soon.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about Ray because he has suffered so much for the love of his country and the desire to protect freedom. Like many young men who went to war, whether it was Vietnam or somewhere else, Ray has seen the horrors of war. On his first day in combat, his good friend Jim was shot in the chest. There was the horror of having to carry his friend to the helicopter and having to see  and smell the blood. No time for mourning or remembering his friend though as this was war! On the second day, Ray was shot in the wrist and witnessed someone else in front of him get badly wounded. Ray developed a a serious staph infection as a result of the wrist wound. You can read more of his ordeal here.

 As a result of the horror of war, Ray now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you ask?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless.
Most people associate PTSD with battle–scarred soldiers–and military combat is the most common cause in men–but any overwhelming life experience can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and law enforcement officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.
PTSD develops differently from person to person. While the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear. (Source:  www.HelpGuide.org)
Sadly, many of the men and women who went to war have an extremely difficult time getting recognized as having this disorder and getting the help they need. Ray has been diagnosed with severe depression and PSTD yet his government does not accept the evidence. Read more about that here.

In the words of his wife, Crystal Mary, "A country may be quick to send their men to fight, BUT, they are very slow in rewarding them."  This is very sad but true.

I'm writing this post to ask if you can read Ray's story and leave him some words of encouragement. Help him and his wife to know that they are not alone. Let Ray know that he is not forgotten. You can visit him and leave a comment by clicking here http://vaforgottenvet.blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Ray and his beautiful wife, Crystal Mary.

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