East Africa: a mile in their shoes

29/08/2011

East Africa Crisis News Story
Somali refugees at one of several refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya. Following a severe drought, many families faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Thousands of refugees are flooding into Dadaab every week. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Catholic Relief Services

Can you fathom walking your family hundreds of kilometres through searing heat for weeks; without food or water, without shoes and without help, only to have to leave your children to die by the side of the road because they can’t take another step?

Thousands of individuals and families are doing that every single day as they desperately attempt to escape the East Africa drought, acute malnutrition and death for the relative safety of an overcrowded and dangerous refugee camp.

“They are in extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” said Caritas Australia’s Africa- based regional representative, Scott Martin.

“These are life and death decisions. You know your situation must be very, very bad when you choose to sacrifice your children.

“They have little other option but to migrate, mostly to refugee camps, which are in themselves very hard and dangerous places to live, particularly for new arrivals.”

Mr Martin, an Australian, has worked in aid and development in Africa for the past 20 years. He has seen drought, floods, civil war and famines. He has fed starving people, seen the devastating human cost of war and conflict, while also seeing communities and individuals take control of their lives with impressive tenacity, fight oppression and institute real and lasting change.

“A lot is already being done in East Africa because of the support provided by the Australian and international communities,” Mr Martin said.

“People are receiving medical assistance, they are receiving food and clean water, they are receiving assistance to retain crops and livestock, but unfortunately this situation could descend into a tragedy if more is not done.

“This is the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet today. We have to treat it accordingly or this will be a great humanitarian tragedy.”

  • There has been a six-fold increase in the mortality of children under 5 and may also join Somalia in being declared a famine.
  • 25 per cent of new arrivals (specifically children) to Kenya are malnourished. 30,000 Somalian children are believed to have died already this year.
  • 1300 Somalian and Ethiopian arrivals every day to Dadaab refugee camp. This is not sustainable.
For more information on the East Africa Crisis Appeal, visit Caritas Australia's dedicated East Africa Crisis Appeal webpage or phone 1800 024 413


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