NEW YORK/NAIROBI — The head of global humanitarian agency Church World Service is hailing fresh commitments announced by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and African development leaders aimed at developing greater drought and famine resilience to prevent future crises in the Horn of Africa.
CWS applauded also the U.S. announcement last week that it will provide an additional nearly U.S. $50 million in relief aid for drought-affected communities and refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and USAID’s pledge to invest $280 million over the next two years specifically for resilience initiatives in Horn of Africa communities. International donors have likewise pledged $3.9 billion over the next 5 years for related programs.
USAID’s Shah and Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council, met Wednesday with African and other international development partners, including representatives of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), during a high-level forum in Nairobi, Kenya, with visits also in Ethiopia.
Church World Service Executive Director and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough, said, “The crisis in the Horn of Africa is far from over. Nearly 10 million people are still in need of food assistance in the region, with thousands of children suffering from malnutrition. And forecasts are predicting inadequate spring rains.
“But, while we are relieved that additional crisis funding has been pledged,” McCullough said, “we are equally encouraged that international actors are coming together to engage and accelerate every dollar, skill and solution possible to help the region’s most vulnerable build lasting food and water resources that can withstand future crises.”
CWS has supported USAID’s actions and pressed for ongoing program funding, in particular USAID’s Feed the Future initiative and its $3.5 billion pledge to tackle global food insecurity in regions like the Horn of Africa.
Following a February USAID “Feed the Future” webinar, CWS Deputy Director of Development and Humanitarian Assistance Diana Church said, “It was encouraging to hear USAID principals stress that they were strengthening their efforts in the Horn of Africa to link humanitarian assistance and development programs in a manner that can build greater resilience and recovery.”
In that event, attended by CWS and other international non-governmental organizations working in Africa, Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security Gregory Gottlieb said Feed the Future was focusing on:
- Production and agriculture components
- A component “for those who are no longer food producers but who can be “still part of that chain and can benefit from it,” by expanding jobs around agriculture
- Nutrition – as a “huge component of what we’re trying to do, helping people improve their diets” and “expanding the [use of] micronutrients, trying to help people consume more nutritious foods”
CWS’s Church said her agency finds the increased U.S. emphasis on resilience “helpful and hopeful. In recent months we have been seeing a consistent emphasis on innovation, coordination and evidence- and data-based decisions, especially at top levels of governmental bodies.
”But it really comes down to the money,” Church said. ‘We would like to see USAID’s disaster risk reduction emphasis manifested in the grants being awarded by the USAID missions in each of the Feed the Future focus countries.”
For its part, Church World Service and its staff in East Africa are continuing their emergency assistance for Kenyans affected by the recent crisis, but also paying it forward.
“We are building into our disaster response the means for families to reduce future disaster risks,” said CWS’s McCullough, “by providing drought-resilient seeds, assisting communities to build new water catchment systems and sand dams, and sharing knowledge about more productive, nutritionally diverse, climate-resilient and sustainable organic gardening methods.”
As it helps communities develop future food production resilience, CWS also is helping improve nutritional health and security in Kenya, by providing multi-micronutrient powder supplements for the first time for malnourished small children in two extremely poor districts suffering severely from drought and crop failures, where nearly 70 percent of small children and pregnant and lactating mothers are suffering from anemia.