You’ve been living in this part of East Africa for generations, but this is the third year your crops have failed. Rain has not come, and the cattle on which you rely are dying around you, decimating your herd. You have almost nothing left, but you’ve heard of a camp where you can get shelter, food and medical aid. It will take you the best part of a month to walk, but you set off anyway with your family: you have no choice if you are to stay alive.
On the way, you are set upon by a gang who rob you of the little you have left, and rape your women. You pick yourselves up and set off again.
As you approach the camp, your two-year-old dies in your arms of starvation.
What is happening in East Africa is hellish and heartbreaking, and this story is normal, not unusual. Which of us will ever face such a terrible situation? Ordinary people are not only suffering from drought but also from civil war and the breakdown of law and order.
I’m making this the subject of a special service at the end of the month: but as I trawl the internet for images for my powerpoint, there are some I can’t bear to dwell on, never mind use for my presentation.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)* is, as usual, pulling out all the stops to try and get aid to the area asap. This is a combination of 14 agencies, Christian, secular and Muslim, who pool the resources we send so that they can be used more effectively to bring relief to those who suffer.
It is of course also possible to donate individually to any organisation we already support. Christian Aid, like most of the others, has ongoing work in the region which is taking place through local partnerships, so that the task of building sustainable lifestyles can continue on a long-term basis. Donations to individual organisations will go only to the work of that organisation.
We can feel helpless in the face of the magnitude of such disasters, but we have so much by comparison, and the little we can give or do, when all put together, can make a difference.
*ActionAid, Age UK, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision.