The bottom line is... it hasn’t rained
10:21 20 July 2011
10 million people at risk from starvation in East Africa. Former Honiton woman explains victims’ plight after visiting the world’s largest refugee camp.
Shocking – that is how a former Honiton woman has described the scale of the world’s largest refugee camp.
Deborah Underdown, 28, visited Dadaab, on Somalia’s border with Kenya, to witness humanitarian work being carried out by charity CARE International in the wake of a severe drought affecting the Horn of Africa.
More than 10 million people are at risk of starvation following the worst drought in East Africa for 60 years.
“It is a shocking place when you realise the scale of it. The camp was built for 90,000 people, but had 370,000 there when I visited and a further 1,500 are arriving every day,” she said.
“Some have walked for 22 days and arrive with nothing – just the clothes on their backs.
“One woman made it to the camp, but then realised her baby, which she had been carrying on her back, had died along the way.”
CARE International has launched an appeal to raise £16 million in a bid to help more than one million people survive the drought.
Deborah’s job was to meet those affected by the natural disaster and relay their stories to supporters of the charity.
“I met one woman who had made it to the camp with her husband and their three children,” she said.
“Her husband died from TB just a few days after they arrived and she has now got to rely on other people to help her, because she is absolutely alone.”
Deborah says famine is forcing people to flee their homes and that, once in the camp, the fear of starvation keeps them prisoners there.
“They can’t go home,” she explained. “Once their livestock have died, they have got nothing left at all.
“It has got to the stage where things are that desperate.”
CARE International is urgently trying to raise a huge sum of money to save lives at a time when cash-strapped Britons are struggling in the wake of the world’s worst financial crisis for decades - and when some may feel inclined to dismiss the drought as “yet another famine in Africa”.
“People are asking: ‘Why has this happened?’” Deborah said. “But it is nobody’s fault it hasn’t rained.
“That’s the bottom line; it hasn’t rained.”
CARE International helped one million people at the start of the year, but it now needs to raise £16 million to help another 1.8 million people.
“The scale of the problem is very hard to imagine but, once you have seen it, you realise how desperate people must be,” said Deborah.
“The thing I noticed the most was the relief on people’s faces as they arrived at the camp.
“They knew they were going to get a meal, but fund-raising must continue to provide the basic essentials people need to survive.”
l CARE International is one of the world’s top three aid agencies.
Its says: “We fight poverty and injustice.
“In the last year, we worked in 87 countries, supporting 905 poverty-fighting projects that reached more than 82 million people.”
l To find out more, or to donate, visit www.careinternational.org.uk