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?

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