Posts Tagged ‘Drought’

Lesotho’s Lenten Lesson

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Dear Friends,


Maabisi Phooko, a 71-year-old widow in Lesotho, tends to her keyhole garden, a resilient CRS innovation which she uses to help care for her three orphaned grandchildren.  Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

I want to tell you about a small country in southern Africa that you may have never heard of. It’s Lesotho (that’s pronounced li-SOO-too). Encircled entirely by South Africa, Lesotho was isolated during the decades of apartheid.

Its poverty is extreme. More than 40% of its 2 million people live on less than $1.25 a day. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world at more than 23%. Many of its men left home to work in the mines of South Africa. Gone for months at a time, they often brought the virus back with their paychecks.

And now, on top of these problems, Lesotho faces a devastating drought brought on by El Nino. As CRS Country Representative Rita Billingsley told CBS News a few weeks ago, this is not like the drought in California, where a lack of rainfall might mean you can’t wash your car or water your lawn. This drought means you cannot feed your children.

Lesotho is not alone. Countries throughout southern and East Africa are dealing with the effects of this strong El Nino. The rain it brings can be capricious—coming down hard enough to turn the landscape green, but not with enough consistency to grow nutritious crops.

Just to the north of Lesotho, in Zimbabwe, the situation is similar. “I harvested nothing last year,” says Fortunate Maangla, a mother of four living in the rural countryside of Zimbabwe. “We’ll be dead if somebody doesn’t help us.”

At this point, even if the rains returned, small farmers like Fortunate have no seeds to plant and no money to buy seeds.

During this Lenten season, the stories of people like Fortunate make me realize the privileges we enjoy. We can choose to sacrifice, to be reminded of the suffering that our Lord endured. So many people in so many places around the world do not have that privilege.

We can learn so much from people like these. Despite their hardships, they get up day after day after day, hoping that whatever small meal they can put together will help their families through, and that tomorrow will be better.

This is what Lent reminds us of: that tomorrow will be better. It leads us to the Passion narrative, the darkest moments for our Lord and his followers, ending on the magnificent Easter Sunday when the cry “He is risen!” resounded in Jerusalem. As we know, those words eventually resounded around the entire world, giving us all a message of sacrifice, of redemption and of hope.

Hope is so powerful. In the United States, we can feel it in this season when the earth itself trumpets forth that message, awakening from its winter slumber. It is a triumphant proclamation of hope for the most important, most precious and, indeed, the most miraculous gift from God—the gift of life itself. It is this gift that unites us all, whether we are rich or poor, whether we speak English or Spanish or Urdu, whether our skin is black or white or red or brown or tan or whatever color God makes it. It is the gift that makes us all brethren in the family of God.

CRS RiceBowl 50 TINT and GRADIENT PMS377

CRS RiceBowl is a program of Lenten solidarity and Easter joy for Catholics all across the United States.

So much of what we do during Lent is an affirmation of hope. For all of you who participate in CRS Rice Bowl, every penny put in that bowl, every inexpensive meal you serve, every faith lesson you contemplate, expresses that hope in the redemption Easter will bring.

With your support, we at Catholic Relief Services deliver hope all around the world. Today we are working with the people of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and many other countries affected by El Nino—countries already suffering from climate change—to bring them food, water and better agriculture.

The miracle of redemption happens because we are the hands of the risen Jesus, digging the soil, planting the seeds, giving them water and reaping their bounty. Join with us and harvest the hope of this season.

May blessings overflow,

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO

Sahel Food Crisis: A Refugee’s Story

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

By Helen Blakesley

Refugee camp

Fadimata Walet Haiballa (in blue) is a refugee living in the camp in Fererio, northern Burkina Faso. Her husband was killed in the violence in northern Mali, so she fled with her 3 children. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

Fadimata Walet Haiballa is a 49-year-old Tuareg woman from Gao in Mali. She’s been living in Fererio temporary refugee camp, Burkina Faso for nearly 6 months now. Her husband was killed in the violence in the North of their home country. She fled with her three children, her 82 year-old father and other family members, traveling for two days to reach neighboring Burkina Faso. She’s the women’s representative on the camp committee.

The militia rebels spread terror in our region. They would harass us, knock things from our hands … and worse. There were bombings, executions. I lost my husband in one of the bombings. We had to leave. We were terrified.

I left all I had behind. Life has changed completely. Back in Mali, before the troubles, we were in our big, beautiful house. We lived in good conditions. We didn’t know fear, we didn’t have this hot sun beating down on us. I had the father of my children with me. Now we’re here in the dust, with the sun. We’re thirsty, we’re surviving on mediocre food. So a lot has changed. Above all, my work, my job, with which I could feed and clothe my children, that’s all gone.

A Hungry Childhood

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Kenya Hunger

Peter Kimeu is a small-scale farmer in Machakos, Kenya, and a technical adviser for Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian organization. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo / CRS

Hunger is an unforgivable disease because it is the easiest one to cure. It is devastating to wake up in the morning and look east, west, south and north and see that there is nothing green that you can chew. During a drought everything goes yellow and dry. I would walk the roads and search the ground to see if someone had spat out a bit of chewed-up sugar cane. I am not ashamed to say that I would re-chew what I would find. Hunger is dehumanizing. It gets to a level where you do not know how you will survive and you will do anything for a simple kernel of corn.

The thing about drought is that it does not just affect farmers and their crops; it affects everyone. If you think about it, during harvest time farmers hire local farmhands to help with their crops. But when there are no crops to harvest, not only does the farmer lose his or her income, so do the laborers the farmer would have hired. There is a ripple effect that affects the whole community. Few have food and even fewer have money to buy food.

Peter Kimeu’s opinion piece about growing up hungry was published in the September 11 edition of the New York Times.

Hungry Somalis Flood Kenyan Refugee Camp

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
Somali refugees

These Somali refugees at one of several refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya, are among many families who faced starvation and left Somalia on foot. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

They’ve walked for days or weeks, and their shoes show it. Dusty and worn, the sandals of a little boy dangle in his hand as he wails in the center of a refugee camp.

Nearby, his mother rocks her sobbing baby. The family has made it to the camp, one of several in northeast Kenya that are receiving a flood of refugees from Somalia.

“We had livestock like sheep, goats, and cattle-over a dozen,” says a 22-year-old mother named Momina. “They all died of the drought.”

“We used to eat corn,” she continues. “But food was running out. So we left.”

Drought Brings Hunger to Kenya

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer in East Africa, reports on the devastating impact of drought and high food prices in Kenya.

Kenya food

Although food is available in local shops, many Kenyans simply can’t afford to buy any. CRS vouchers are enabling the neediest families to purchase two to three weeks worth of supplies.. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Finally, food and fuel prices are starting to drop across the globe. But in many countries these price drops have yet to reach the average person trying to survive during these hard times. And in East Africa, where drought is desiccating fields across the region, some families have no food stocks left and no idea where their next meal will come from.

This was the case last week for Virginia Nzyoka and her household of 12. Virginia, at 28 years old, lives with her husband and their five children. She also takes care of four young relatives who are now orphans, as well as her disabled grandfather.