photo by Jacqueline Koster
What do you do when your cultural tradition dictates that you take care of relatives during times of difficulty, but you are also struggling to survive? This is the situation facing families in Katilu in Northern Kenya.
The people of Katilu are pastoralists who make a living by raising cattle and goats. This past year, the region has received only 10% of the rainfall it normally receives. As a result, grasses and other plants have died and people have nowhere to graze their animals. To make things worse, relatives who had migrated north in previous years have seen even worse drought conditions there. They have returned to their homeland and placed a new burden on those already in the region. In the face of this crisis, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) is responding.
“There is a certain level of animosity between the residents and the newcomers here,” said Esther Aregae, Assistant Chief of the village of Katilu. “The famine caused people of Northern Katilu to migrate south in search of grazing for their livestock. They then compete with the local population who are also looking for grazing land. We have two camps for internally displaced people in our region and those living in the camps also compete for land and water. It can become heated, especially with the additional stress of this year’s famine. Yet, we are all Turkana so we need to support one another.”
To assist in this situation, CRWRC is providing a multi-faceted response in Kenya as well as in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia. This includes a Canadian Foodgrains bank project to provide monthly rations of food aid to 20,000 families to meet their immediate needs. It also includes providing access to drinking water and distributing feed and fodder for people’s livestock in order to ease tensions and ensure that people’s livelihoods can continue. In addition, CRWRC is providing a disaster risk reduction specialist in Kenya to help local populations prepare for and mitigate the effects of future disasters.
“The food from CRWRC coupled now with the water, fodder and mitigation is helping meet physical need,” said Aregae, “ Since it is coming from fellow Christians, it is also providing a spiritual comfort.”
The emergency aid is also helping people to live out their cultural values.
“Time and time again we hear from people that the food they receive for their family’s ration is going far beyond their immediate home. They are sharing food with their neighbours and relatives,” said Jacqueline Koster, CRWRC’s Disaster Response Program Manager in East Africa. “These families have so little according to North American standards, but they give of what they have to help others. It is so great to be a part of this demonstration of Christian love.”