Recently our founder, Eugene Cho, visited the Horn of Africa with one of our Partners to see firsthand the impact of the worst drought in 60 years in the region and the developments that have been made to provide relief one year after we launched our Horn of Africa Relief Fund.
Below are some of his reflections from his trip.
A Message From Our Founder
I had intended to write my reflections from my Horn of Africa assessment trip immediately after I returned. But I couldn't. I wanted to but I couldn't. There was too much to process.
First, let me encourage you to please read a post I wrote earlier entitled,“Africa is beautiful: The danger of how we frame the story of other people and nations.” I want to make sure that I don’t perpetuate this monolithic perspective where people only think of poverty as synonymous with Africa.
Now, I’m not a newbie at travels to difficult areas of the world. As part of my work, I've seen my share of suffering and pain. But the image that stood out the most for me from this trip were these feet (above).
These feet belong to a woman named Sahara. Through our translator, I received permission to share her story. Sahara and those two feet traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.
This is not a misprint – she traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his other wives in this polygamist community. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane.
There’s good news and bad news.
Sahara survived her journey in search – literally – of greener pastures, humanitarian aid, and resources. There’s good news and bad news:
- Her children – all six of them – survived this journey. According to some organizations and resources, her children were fortunate. It is estimated that over 30,000 children died as they traveled for safety, food, aid, and water – most taking place in Somalia.
- Her children survived but couple were severely malnourished – especially her youngest child – who she just gave birth to before they embarked on this 200 mile journey. Through aid and relief work, food vouchers and rations have helped this young baby progress in her health. When I checked her health with a local NGO workers/nurse, the baby was now only “moderately malnourished”.
- Sahara has personal medical issues that she’ll likely not able to get assistance for. One of the first things I noticed in my conversation with her was the large lump in her throat. As not to embarrass her but I did not ask her for the details but I fear that it may be a large cancerous tumor.
- This family lost nearly all of their livestock which included, in her estimation, 100 cows, 100 goats, and 100 camels. They were now left with…one goat. For such a pastoralist community (livestock and grazing dependent), this crisis was life changing. This family – like so many – lost everything.
There’s still work to be done.
Aid, relief work, and development are always complex and messy. Anyone that tells you different is lying, selling something, doesn't know what they’re talking about, and/or all of the above.
But in spending a week – traveling with other relief workers – and hosted by one of our Horn of Africa partner, World Concern, I can assure you that – in the midst of pain, tragedy, and a lot of complexities and messiness – lives are being impacted and empowered. I am humbled that so many gave generously to our Horn of Africa Relief Fund.
From United Nations’ recent report on the Horn of Africa, progress has certainly been made. At its peak, over 13 million people were impacted by this crisis. The “worse” is over but as the world turns its attention to other events, we forget that there’s still a deep humanitarian need. In fact, about 9.1 million people are still in need of assistance.
Will you walk with those who are suffering?
For some reason, I was drawn to Sahara’s feet. Not instantly but when she shared that she had traveled about 300 kilometers, I was drawn to her feet. Perhaps as a reminder to commiserate what it must have felt to be in her shoes or rather… feet.
It’s not guilt, fear, or shame…but I invite you to join me in walking with those who are suffering around the world.
Eugene Cho | Founder & Executive Director of One Day's Wages
What Can You Do?
- Share this story with your friends and family.
- Donate. There is a great need and we are still funding projects in the region and 100% (minus CC fees) goes to the projects on the ground.
- Consider starting a Birthday For A Cause or Idea For A Cause for this relief fund
- If you're a faith group, school, or business, we'd love to partner with you for this relief fund.