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Ministries rush to relieve ‘children’s famine’ in Africa

Milton Jones traveled from one drought-stricken land to another — 8,900 miles away.
Since last June, the longtime minister has served as president of Amarillo, Texas-based Christian Relief Fund, a child sponsorship ministry that assists families in 30 countries, including nations in East Africa that are experiencing the worst drought in decades.
Recently, Jones left his home in Amarillo to check on children sponsored by the ministry in Barwessa, Kenya.
As the plane flew over the forests of Ethiopia, his first thought was, “This doesn’t look as bad as Texas,” he said. Rainfall in Amarillo is at least 11 inches below normal for the year.
But when he arrived in Barwessa, Jones quickly learned the dire nature of the famine gripping the region, known as the Horn of Africa. Water is scarce. What is available is contaminated with cholera.
Now, children in the drought-affected lands face a grim choice — drink and get sick or don’t drink at all.
“In Amarillo, we can get water and get food” despite the drought, Jones said.
“And if we get sick, we can pay $228 to get pills,” he added, referring to what it cost to treat the case of malaria he picked up during the trip. “They can’t do that in Africa. They die.”
In the past three months, “the children’s famine,” as it’s been called, has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 children under the age of 5, according to news reports. Worst hit is Somalia, a nation that has been without an effective central government since 1991.
Thousands of Somalis have fled their warlord-controlled homeland for refugee camps along the border, including in Dadaab, Kenya.
Representatives of Christian Relief Fund traveled to the Dadaab camp recently to distribute food and water.
“We have very bad scenario of poor, sick and hungry people,” Francis Bii, a Kenyan Christian, said in an e-mail from Dadaab. Men, women and children walk for days from Somalia to reach the camp. Mothers carry their infants on their backs, and “we find that some children have died on the backs of their mothers a long time ago — without the mothers noticing because of hunger,” Bii said.
As Christians distribute aid in the camp, other churches and ministries are rushing relief to the Horn of Africa.
• John Kachelman, minister for the Judsonia Church of Christ in Arkansas, is preparing two containers for northern Somalia, filled with 40,000-plus pounds of rice, hygiene kits, shoes and clothing. The containers will be distributed in a refugee camp in Garowe, in the Somali region known as Puntland.
“While the tragedies of earthly life are horrible, the beauty of the Lord’s compassion demonstrated by his church is inexplicably wonderful,” Kachelman said.
• At press time, Brad Gautney and Brian Wallace were en route to the Dadaab camp “to assess how we can best assist the people being most affected,” Gautney said. The two men are part of Global Health Innovations, a nonprofit and sister ministry of Manna Global Ministries, which serves the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
• Global Samaritan Resources is supporting Global Health Innovations’ trip to Kenya. Abilene, Texas-based Global Samaritan also is channeling funds through Christian Relief Fund and plans to provide a shipment of food for famine victims.
• Churches of Christ in Mombasa, on Kenya’s eastern coast, have received requests for aid from congregations they planted to the northwest, in Kenya’s Kitui district. Ministers Moses Gitau, Julius Mwambu and Michael Mutai are working with U.S. churches to provide famine relief.
“We expect these needs to grow until there can be another crop season if the October rains are adequate,” said Ken Beckloff, a former missionary to Kenya.
• Healing Hands International also is collecting funds to help drought victims. Christians are mobilizing along the Kenya/Somalia border to help those in greatest need, said marketing director Alisa Van Dyke.
“As we meet the immediate needs … we must not forget the urgency of empowering Africans to reverse the trends that have caused this crisis to develop,” Van Dyke said.
Since 2009, the Nashville, Tenn.-based ministry has partnered with the Nairobi Great Commission School, — and its supporting churches in the U.S. — to host food security and food preservation workshops, teaching Christians how to grow crops and store them in times of drought.
Working with sister ministries, including Christian Relief Fund, Healing Hands plans to identify additional students to be trained in drip irrigation and community gardening.
“We are feeding people who are starving now,” Van Dyke said, “but Healing Hands is committed to changing the culture of dependence in hopes that a famine like this will never again claim the lives of thousands of precious children.”

  • Feedback
    The Turkana region of Kenya is one of the areas hit hardest by drought in the Horn of Africa. Their animals are dying and their people have started dying too. Unfortunately, not much has been done there as most of our relief ministries have paid attention to Dadaab and Somalia. I am scheduled to visit Turkana next week to distribute food to the affected young children in Kakuma Refugee Camp, in IDP [internally displaced people] camps, in the villages and to the malnourished children admitted in Dodwar District Hospital… Thanks to the brethren who have made the relief efforts to these areas possible. Will keep you posted on how things go.
    David Marube
    Nyamue Church of Christ
    Kisii, Nyanza
    September, 1 2011

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