Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, August 29, 2011

The East Africa Drought and Us

By Julian Lazalde

The month of July set a record for rainfall in the city of Chicago – over 11 inches of rain.  Do you remember the seemingly constant rainfall?  For most of us, it was merely a nuisance to be tolerated.  At worst, some of us had to deal with flooded basements or power outages.  As Chicago and the surrounding areas were inundated with record rainfall in July, our sisters and brothers in East Africa (Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia) were in the throes of a devastating drought and subsequent famine (in Somalia).  In fact, they still are.

Currently, more than 12 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia because of what many are calling the worst drought since 1950 – 51.

“[The] rains last fall failed completely,” says Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Africa Team Leader Brian Gleeson.  “And spring rains earlier this year were erratic and weak.  As a result, farmers have experienced horrible harvests and pastoralists are seeing their livestock dying off.”  To make matters worse, drastic increases in staple food prices – up to an 85% increase in the price of wheat since last year in Ethiopia – have made access to food more difficult in the region. 

With farmers unable to sustain crops through harvest and urban residents unable to pay more for imported staple foods, the terrible specter of hunger has become reality in East Africa.         

As the official humanitarian aid agency for the Catholic community in the United States, CRS is uniquely positioned to respond effectively and efficiently to this unfolding crisis by providing immediate food and water assistance to those most in need.  As we tend to the most basic of needs in East Africa, we are also working with local governments, partners and communities to develop projects to counteract the effects of drought.  Such projects focus on building the resiliency of communities and their long-term coping strategies to lessen the impact of future drought.

As CRS continues its decades-long commitment to work in the name of U.S. Catholics in some of the most difficult regions of the world, please remember that as Catholics we are called to stand in solidarity with those less fortunate and to always be aware of the needs of others.  This is another opportunity.  What will you do? 

Let us always be aware of the needs of others – at home and abroad.

To donate online:

To donate via phone:
1-800-736-3467, call from 7 am – 10 pm central time

To donate via mail:
Send check or money order to Catholic Relief Services, East Africa Emergency Fund (in the memo line), P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203 – 7090

To learn about our work in East Africa from CRS staff:
CRS Voices Blog