What is USAID Doing in the Horn of Africa?
This past weekend, in the midst of the hubbub over Hurricane Irene in Washington, DC, I went to pick up some supplies at my local Target. As I walked past the bare aisles, watching people fill their overflowing carts with water bottles, loaves of bread, milk, and cheese, I was haunted by an interview I’d read in The Washington Post with Nancy Lindborg, head of the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID. Her office is coordinating U.S. efforts in the Horn of Africa, where severe drought has left more than 12 million people in need in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti. The region is facing a three-part crisis, according to Lindborg: drought, famine, and refugees from Somalia streaming into Ethiopa and Kenya by the thousands every day.
With $581.6 million in aid, how is USAID combating the most urgent problems? Lindborg shares their strategy:
In Somalia … we’re providing immediate food assistance, with an emphasis on therapeutic foods [easily digestible food such as peanut paste or high-energy biscuits.] We’re also focused on health and sanitation, as we’re seeing the emergence of cholera and measles. Access to clean water -- the ability to reduce mortality with that simple act is mind-boggling.
Furthermore, USAID is distributing $8 million in food vouchers to allow families to buy the food they need and keep the local economy afloat.
I walked out of Target empty-handed, fully aware that I had plenty of supplies at home. Food. Shelter. Water. As people of faith in a land of plenty, where hurricane warnings come hand-in-hand with clarion calls to the nearest stores stocked with supplies, we must keep our focus on those with little as we travel together on the journey toward the common good, as Walter Brueggemann puts it.
Learn more about the famine in the Horn of Africa:
- An overview of the crisis in the Horn of Africa.
- A detailed map of the droughts effects.
- Updates from Bread for the World on the Horn of Africa.
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