photo Marianne Bach / World Relief

With more attention and more assistance, there is hope that Turkana can flourish again. World Relief is working alongside local Kenyan churches and the World Food Program to help increase food access for more of the 200,000 vulnerable in Turkana. Yet food alone is not enough. To avoid dependency, new solutions in agriculture and food-security are required and long term economic interventions will be needed to sustain a recovery for the people of Turkana.

There is hope in Turkana that a famine can be averted and an ancient culture can be saved. We can respond to this emergency before it becomes a catastrophe.

Take action by signing ONE’s petition urging world leaders to end hunger and its causes now http://act.one.org/sign/horn_of_africa_us/ and visit World Relief’s website http://www.worldrelief.org to provide assistance for the vulnerable of Turkana.

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on the road to Lokitaung (photo Marianne Bach / World Relief

This man once had wives and livestock and the power to care for them. He now waits for bread in a makeshift camp. He and thousands like him in Turkana have been displaced by drought and hunger. I could not understand his desperate pleas but I felt the poor man’s spirit. he was afraid and confused.

photo by Marianne Bach / World Relief

How do you make sense of a world in which famine is allowed to persist? Why are people in east Africa starving while Americans still throw away 14% of their food? Why do we ignore those institutions that warn us about these tragedies until it is too late for so many? With so little being done to resolve the famine in Somalia, what hope is there for the Turkana? Will many have to die before the world takes notice?

the weathered look of poverty (photo Marianne Bach / World Relief

Two weeks ago, (coincidentally while I was traveling in Turkana), scientists reported that a 1.76 million year old hand ax was dug up in Turkana – the oldest known evidence of human technology.

Apparently, human engineering began in Turkana and humanity has been trying to wrestling nature to its will ever since. Yet, the irony is, we still have famine. Turkana are starving to death.

They say drought is a natural disaster while famine is man-made. This is proving true in East Africa. Somalis are dying because of wicked governance and weak political will from an international community hesitant to confront terrorists to feed people. The Turkana are suffering from Kenyan neglect and their unwillingness to integrate with the modern world. With no way to cope with rising global temperatures and resulting increased drought, the Turkana face the death of their most vulnerable and a threat to their very existence.

Humanity has the technology to eradicate famine from history. The question is, have we evolved the spiritual will to do so?

photo Marianne Bach / World Relief

The young, the old and the vulnerable are dying without food and water in Turkana, Kenya.

In Lokitaung, a weary beneficiary of corn and beans

Today in the horn of Africa a full on famine is raging. Refugees fleeing Somalia overcrowd the Dadaab camp in Eastern Kenya and images of emaciated children stir media attention. The scenes of apocalypse have one redeeming effect; they mobilize international concern and resources begin to flow.

But resources aren’t flowing to other seriously affected regions of the crisis. In Turkana, the village of Loruss, We saw the graves – eight dead in this community of 60 households in the last two months. In the remote settlement of Lorumor, we saw dying babies and the desperate adults who can no longer keep them alive. In Lokitaung, we watched the elderly, dead-eyed and too feeble to stand, stand for an hour waiting for a bit of corn and beans. There are no words to capture death by starvation but we bear witness to the fact: children and old people are starving to death in Turkana.

And this crisis is killing more than children and the vulnerable old. An entire people and their ancient way of life are dying with them. The pastoralists Turkana are as ruggedly individualistic as any Texas Republican and magisterial like a National Geographic photo spread. But as drought kills their animals and hunger drives them to seek food aid, the Turkana are forced to make a terrible decision – give up their way of life for the security of free food.

For the Turkana to survive more than food assistance is needed. Innovative solutions are also required. Currently, the Turkana have neither. Nor do they have the graphic images of famine that would galvanize support. What the Turkana do have is hope – hope that a famine can be averted and hope that their way of life can be sustained. As we seek to raise awareness the question remains…
Can hope mobilize attention where death is usually required?

North Turkana (photo Thomas Busch)

I arrived back home to an east coast battered first by a 5.8 earth tremor and then a hurricane that has left many without power for days. How easy it will be to allow Turkana to be forgotten. That can’t be allowed to happen!