Provide famine relief to families in Somalia

by World Concern
A young Somali girl in the Horn of Africa.
A young Somali girl in the Horn of Africa.

Sometimes leaving is hard. But in the case of Dadaab, Kenya, the hub for the Horn of Africa famine response, it’s a good thing. This is not a place anyone would want to stay for long – especially the families who fled Somalia’s famine last year.

The Dadaab refugee camp is the largest in the world, and at the height of the famine, it became home to nearly half a million people. It is not a place to start over. But for many, it was the only place to go to try and survive the crisis.

When World Concern arrived in Dadaab in July 2011, we decided not to work in the camp itself – there was an ample response by aid organizations already working there. Instead, we chose to reach people who were en-route to the camp, or had stopped along the way in “host” communities on both sides of the Kenya-Somalia border. These villages became inundated with refugees and displaced families, and were stretched beyond their capacity to help. There wasn’t enough water. There wasn’t enough food. And the people arriving were in dire need of medical care and emergency assistance.

With your help, we set up a voucher system to feed families with food from local markets, thereby helping support the economy in these communities. More than 130,000 people were fed through this system, saving many lives. We also provided medical care to 24,500 people in a joint response with partner Medical Teams International. We were one of the only international relief agencies able to work in parts of southern Somalia at the time.

We rehabilitated water pans, fixed wells that were broken from being over-used, and installed rainwater catchment tanks, bringing clean water to 41,450 people. We built latrines, and trained people to keep their families healthy with good hygiene. More than 100,000 people received emergency supplies, such as cooking pots, blankets, tarps, and mosquito nets.

Most importantly, people received hope that they could survive and, eventually … start over. And that’s why we’re leaving Dadaab to continue our work in areas where families are resettling and rebuilding their lives. We’re moving from disaster response to building resilient communities, helping them plant crops and learn better farming techniques. Some will start businesses, and children can get back in school. This is the goal of helping – equipping people to sustain themselves and have a better life.

Thank you for joining us in this challenging response. We couldn’t have done this without the support and generosity of our donors.

For more information on how we’re serving communities long-term, and to join us in transforming lives in other areas, please visit

We're helping farmers grow better crops.


Sahara Aden receives a ration card for food.
Sahara Aden receives a ration card for food.

You’ve read in previous reports how we’ve used vouchers to ensure emergency food gets into the hands of those who need it most in the Horn of Africa. This method has been extremely effective, even in dangerous and hard-to-reach places. More than 30,000 vouchers have been distributed so far. But this system has recently gone high tech with the help of mobile phone technology. It’s pretty amazing!

Over the past month, your support has helped us distribute another 5,000 vouchers—each providing two weeks’ worth of food for a family of six. With this latest round of vouchers, World Concern piloted a new mobile app that tracks beneficiaries and the food they receive by scanning a bar code. This new technology ensures a smoother, more efficient process, and enables merchants who are providing food to families to get paid more quickly.  

"This technology will enable our staff to report on their life-saving distribution in real-time, increasing our ability to respond to immediate needs as they arise," said Chris Sheach, deputy director of disaster response for World Concern.

The long-term effects of such a severe drought and crisis will be experienced for many years to come. As we shift our response from disaster to development — teaching pastoralists who lost their herds to farm and other forms of livelihood diversification — there are still many hungry people to feed. This new technology enables us to do this even more quickly and efficiently. It can also be used in other types of disasters, particularly in cash-for-work programs.

Thank you for partnering with World Concern throughout the Horn of Africa crisis. Your support has saved lives and provided hope for a life beyond famine and drought to desperate families.

A mobile phone app is helping feed people.
A mobile phone app is helping feed people.


A rainwater catchment tank at Benane Primary.
A rainwater catchment tank at Benane Primary.

Your support is helping bring clean water, food and better health to those affected by the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.

Hassan is a fifth grade student at Benane Primary school in a drought-stricken town near the Somalia border. He regularly leaves class to collect water from a nearby mud hole fed by a spring, as do 571 other children from the school. This is the main source of water for their town, as well as Somali refugees in a settlement a few miles away, all of whom tromp through the school compound with jerrycans to collect water.

Mr. Murimi, Hassan’s teacher, is excited about a rainwa­ter catchment system installed by World Concern at the school.

“It has been a problem for a long time,” he said. “Ev­ery time water runs out, they have to go fetch.”

World Concern installed rain gutters around the school which feed into six storage tanks. With full tanks, Hassan and others will be able to spend more time learning and playing.

World Concern also built latrines to improve sanitation. Previously, human waste polluted the spring, causing health problems for the entire community.

Our work in the Horn of Africa is transitioning from disaster response to long-term assistance, including farming and agricultural support.

The people of this region are primarily pastoralists who herded cattle and goats until the drought took all their livestock. They have little experience raising crops—so little that some farmers have cut the tassels off corn stock thinking they were harvesting the fruit.

World Concern is showing hungry people a connection between the maize flour they receive from relief agencies and the plants that bear the grain through community crop farming. Locals receive tools, seeds, and farming instructions.

Mama Khadija lost her herd in the drought, but is now learning to farm.

“If its tractors, seeds or advice, bring it, we need it all. Even if the water runs out, we are not leaving our farms,” she said. “I have God with me, and my eyes are open now. If I will still be alive, I think I will be very advanced in two years.”

Thank you for helping bring lasting change to hungry families and thirsty communities in the Horn of Africa.

Mama Khadija working hard on her farm.
Mama Khadija working hard on her farm.
A displaced family
A displaced family's shelter in Dhobley.

World Concern has been responding to the crisis in Dhobley since August, but staff members are seeing a sudden sharp increase in new arrivals. Ongoing drought and conflict in other parts of Southern Somalia are to blame for the influx. However, some people are returning from the refugee camps in Dadaab, citing insecurity and lack of food and other support in the camps as the reason for leaving.

Maria Abdi arrived in Dhobley, Somalia, with her five children and nothing but the clothes on their backs. She fled her hometown of Afmadow because there was no work there and the children were hungry. A relative paid her way to travel to Dhobley after Maria pleaded with them, having heard there was assistance here. But there was a charge for luggage and she couldn’t afford it, so she came empty-handed.

“I need everything a human being needs—all the basic necessities,” she said.

Maria’s family is among a new influx of arrivals in Dhobley, a transit point near the border for those traveling from Somalia to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya.

“We visited the areas where families are settling in Dhobley and conditions are bad,” said World Concern Africa Director Buck Deines. “Most live in very temporary shelters, inadequate to protect them from the harsh weather. In some cases the shelters are nothing more than sticks and mosquito nets. We saw the interiors of several shelters, and in most cases, the families have no supplies of any kind.”

Deines estimates there are approximately 12,000 people that have settled in makeshift camps and are in immediate need of help. World Concern is planning to distribute vouchers that will supply families with a two-week supply of food, as well as emergency supplies like tarps, blankets, cooking pots, water jugs and more. However, additional funding is needed to respond immediately. World Concern has been supporting people affected by the famine and drought in the Horn of Africa for nine months, and the recent increase in displaced families presents an urgent need.

Khayro Yussuf sits inside her shelter made from faded garments and held together by rope. Two metal cups are the only possessions inside her tent, except for an orange flask, which a relative uses to bring her tea.

She fled her village after three of her brothers and her uncle were killed in front of her. Khayro and her children came to Dhobley, fearing for their lives.  

She received some food rations, but when she put it on a donkey cart, the owner of the cart took off with her only food. “When he realized I was not a resident and that I didn’t know where to go, he ran away with it,” she said.

Shortly after arriving, Khayro sent her son to Dadaab. “I was afraid he would be absorbed by militia … I never wanted my son to carry a gun or to join such kinds of groups,” she said.

Her daughter is staying with her in Dhobley. “If she is to die, she will die here with me,” said Khayro.

Khayro Yussuf inside her tent.
Khayro Yussuf inside her tent.
Maria Abdi with two of her children in Dhobley.
Maria Abdi with two of her children in Dhobley.


Habon Farah and her 9-month-old twins.
Habon Farah and her 9-month-old twins.

Among those your donations have helped support is 23-year-old Habon Farah, a mother of 9-month-old twins who fled her hometown of Jilib, Somalia, and traveled on foot 155 miles to Dhobley.

Habon says she left Jilib because her family was hungry. There had been no harvest for three years, according to officials in the area. Although she hopes for a better life for her children, right now, her biggest concern is survival. We met her in a crowded tent with about 30 other families and have assisted her with food, water and emergency supplies.

Your support is helping us expand our response in the Horn of Africa and reach more families like Habon’s.

World Concern is expanding its drought response in the Horn of Africa into several new communities near the Kenya-Somalia border, reaching a larger number of displaced, hungry families and refugees who often travel through or settle in these towns. We’re providing vouchers for emergency food, supplies and access to water through repaired wells, rehabilitated water pans and construction of rainwater catchment systems in these unreached communities.

Despite the declaration by the United Nations on Feb. 3, 2012 that official famine conditions have ended in Somalia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there are still 9.5 million people in need throughout the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, 2.3 million people are still suffering the effects of drought and ongoing conflict, and in Kenya, 4.3 million need assistance.

According to the World Meteorological Office, La Niña conditions (which are blamed for the drought during 2011) are expected to continue in March through May, 2012, which would normally be the region’s long rainy season. Insecurity continues to hamper movement and the provision of services by humanitarian groups both in Dadaab and surrounding communities.

The crisis is far from over. We will continue to help save and protect lives affected by this disaster, reaching as many of those suffering as possible,” said World Concern President David Eller. “Our expertise working in challenging conditions enables us to remain on the front lines of this disaster. With the generosity of our donors, we’re grateful to be able to expand our response and reach even more people in need.”

A happy recipient of a food voucher.
A happy recipient of a food voucher.



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Organization Information

World Concern

Location: Seattle, WA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Joanne Felci
Seattle, Washington United States

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