Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

New Resources: Horn of Africa One-Year Later

Posted on September 21, 2012 by Matthew Ley

During the summer of last year major drought spread throughout the Horn of Africa, affecting countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. From the onset the ELCA has been helping in the response, providing cups of water and food to arriving refugees, working with communities to stave off illness and helping local populations leverage their knowledge to better prepare themselves for further disasters. This work has been made possible thanks to generous gifts from people like you.

As a way of marking this occassion and to help share about the good work we as this church are engaged in we share with you the following two Horn of Africa: One Year Later resources:

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Horn of Africa: LWF Update on Kenya and Djibouti

Posted on August 13, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The Lutheran World Federation Kenya/Djibouti program update from July 2012 gives a good update of what has been going on in the last year since the drought in the Horn of Africa started leading to famine and migrating people, especially in Somalia. Give it a read to get a good update on the situation.

Here is what stuck out to me:

  • The introducation gives a good reminder that each refugee is an individual who prior to disaster had a life and livelihood that would be considered normal in their context. The move to refugee was not an easy or expected one. It drove home for me that in each disaster their is both the objective circumstances of what happened as well as the very real and unique subjective story of each individual affected.
  • The background on what is going on in Kenya at large was a reminder that disasters do not happen in vaccuums. Life, both the positive and the negative, continues on and this continuation affects the response to the disaster. Also, it was a reminder that disasters don’t awknowledge the boundaries between peoples and countries that we create. So in our response there will always be a great need for communication, trust and accountability between varied partners.
  • The overview of Dadaab highlighted the importance of safety in the disaster response and how much effort can at times go into creating a place of peace and security in the midst of chaos. This work has been done in a very creative and effective way in Dadaab through their Community Peace and Secuirty Teams (sometimes labeled Community Peace Protection Teams or CPPT). These teams are made up of refugees living within the camps and are the first line of response to community violence and disputes. This buffering allows for issues to be handled mostly by people speaking the same language, coming from the same cultural background and current life experience. Seeing the need for basic security and peace before humanitarian aid can be properly delivered the ELCA, through its Disaster Response program strong supports this valuable work.

Overall the update gives a good overview of the situation and highlighting how the response of gracious donors the globe over has made a difference and why the need is still their for that response to continue.

Read the entire update: LWF Kenya/Djibouti Program Update.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Kenya: Shelter From the Drought

Posted on July 3, 2012 by Matthew Ley

Refugees in Dadaab awaiting tent assignment. Credit: ACT/Barb Summers

The Lutheran World Federation program working in Kenya and Djibouti just released their annual report for 2011. A major part of their work in 2011 was around the drought which struck the Horn of Africa and the subsequent refugee crisis as the drought mixed with civil unrest in areas of Somalia. The following is one of the story reports giving a view of incoming refugees to the LWF-run camp of Dadaab located in eastern Kenya.


Shelter from the drought

Ahmed has a wife and four children, and that is all.

His family fled hunger in Somalia after the herd of cattle he owned were all gone and there was nothing to feed them. To make the trip, he sold his farm to his extended family and used the money to hire transport at the border to get them to the Dadaab refugee camps in eastern Kenya. Ahmed and his family set out from their home near Baidoa, one of the regions hardest-hit by the famine, but were stuck at the border for quite some time before they finally decided to sell their holdings and buy passage for the journey to Dadaab.

They have lived on the outskirts of the camps for a month and five days. In 2011, over 100,000 people poured into Dadaab, fleeing from drought and violence in Somalia. Some stay with relatives or other families from their clan, but many pitched their tents on the outskirts and stayed there. These tents sat on sandy orange dirt, a long way from water and other amenities.

Those working in the camps were stretched to their limits and beyond trying to meet the needs of this wave of humanity. But refugees and workers alike have had the pressure relieved as those camping on the outskirts were settled into planned camps.

All of the land in and around Dadaab belongs to the Kenyan government, who have generously donated massive tracts for the refugees to settle on. Since mid-August, [Lutheran World Federation] has been relocating refugees living on the outskirts to permanent plots within the official camp.

For people who have experienced so much change and dislocation, there is some resistance to moving again. Some of the refugees need convincing that their new homes will be better than the old. When it came time to decamp from the brushy outskirts of the Hagaderah camp to relocate to the new Kambioos settlement, some Somali refugees wasted no time at all.

Morning cooking fires still smoldered nearby as Abdullah, 50, prepared his donkey cart for the short journey. All around him, other members of this family rolled up mats, folded tarpulins and collected their belongings. Even small children carried their bags to the trucks and buses waiting to ferry them to Kambioos.

“We were fleeing from drought and fighting in Lower Juba,” says Abdullah, who travelled with his wife and their seven children. “I don’t know how many kilometers it was, but it was a very long journey. All of us made it here alive, but some people were very seriously ill when we arrived.”

Their group, which he estimates at one hundred or more, lost eight donkeys along the way. The rest of their livestock perished in the drought before they ever left Lower Juba.

After they arrived, they huddled together in makeshift dwellings outside of the Hagadera camp, where they endured weeks living a long walk away from latrines and a clean water source.

“Water is the main problem,” says one man. “Our family is eight people, and we only get twenty liters for the day.” That’s just 2 ½ liters per person per day; far less than the water used in a single flush of most Western toilets. “We are expecting that life there in Kambioos will be somehow gentler,” said Abdullah.

When the first members of the group arrive at Kambioos after the short bus trip they find sturdy tents erected on well-defined plots, and there is a greater sense of privacy. A large new water tank sits in the middle of the camp atop a pedestal of sand bags, and the camp is outfitted with latrines and other sanitary features.

Afra Mohammed and his family of three are among the first to arrive and he is immediately relieved that they have their own tent instead of sharing with another family.

“We are ready for anything because we are refugees who are looking for a place to settle,” he said. “But I am happy to have this plot.” He echoes the hope of many of the refugees who have fled to Kenya, which is one of stability and a life away from drought and civil war. Ahmed also sounds the same note as the other refugees, “I am not thinking about going back to Somalia. There’s no food to sustain us.”

Kenya, South Sudan & Sudan: New (and Returning) Arrivals at Kakuma

Posted on May 25, 2012 by Matthew Ley

A new feature story from the Lutheran World Federation looks at the increasing number of South Sudanese and Sudanese who are ending up at Kakuma refugee camp in northwesetern Kenya. For some this is a return trip after they left the camp years ago to move home to Sudan and the new country of South Sudan. Yet violence on the border of the two countries and internally with South Sudan have led them to flee for safer areas.

The situation is also heightened because Kakuma has also been taking overflow Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab camp on the Kenya-Somilia border. This has led to a situation in Kakuma where overcrowding and processing have also become problems. Read the report from Rose Karimi, LWF gender equity and human rights officer at Kakuma camp, to learn more about the situation and the work of the Lutheran World Federation and ACT Alliance in the camp.

Back Again at the Reception Center

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Kenya: Feeding School Children, Pastoralists Become Farmers & More

Posted on March 12, 2012 by Matthew Ley

The following is a great update from the ACT Alliance of ongoing responses in Kenya to the drought which has been affecting the area since early last summer. Read how a feeding program has improved the lives of students and is in the transition to a sustainable community gardening project. Also, see how a traditional pastoralist is learning to become a farmer and read of education is the hope for the future.

ACT Alliance members transform lives in Kenya
By George Arende

Emukutan primary school pupil receiving food from ACK feeding program.

Welcome to Emukutan primary school, which besides molding and educating future leaders also provides the one and only meal to 160 children living in a drought affected area of Kajiado County.

Started in 2006 as a community school, it is located close to the main road, making it accessible and the best alternative for many people. Previously they were forced to walk several kilometers in order to attend public schools supported by the government of Kenya.

The dry-spell and lack of rains in 2009, which led to severe drought and loss of animals, has affected the school’s attendance. This trend changed in Sept 2011 following food distribution of maize, beans, cooking oil and ujimix by ACT Alliance member, Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) – Kajiado Diocese.

Kenya: ELCA Supports Disaster Risk Reduction in Turkana

Posted on January 7, 2012 by Matthew Ley

In mid-December the ELCA, through its International Disaster Response program, approved a disbursement of $102,337 to support a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) project in the Turkana district of Kenya. Now you might be wondering what CMDRR is or you might be wondering why it needs to be instituted in Turkana. And you might even be asking where Turkana is. Well I’m glad you asked. This post will answers these three questions. If you have any others, please share them in the comments.

Kenya: Inside Look at Dadaab Refugee Registration

Posted on October 13, 2011 by Matthew Ley

A newly arrived Somali woman gets registered at Dadaab registration center. Credit: ACT/Paul Jeffrey

Natalie Dale, of Christian Aid, recently blogged about a day she spent at the registration center of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The center is the initial point of entry for new refugees and so is their first encounter with the camp. Dale followed one individual through the process and shares some of her experiences and thoughts of the day.

She also has some great things to say about the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and their managing of the camp, particularly about LWF’s ability to manage all the different aid groups that are working in the camp.

Check out her post: Aid Worker Diaries – Registering refugees in the camps

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Horn of Africa Drought: LWF Underlines Importance of New Dadaab Camp

Posted on July 27, 2011 by Matthew Ley

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which runs the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya, recently extended one its three camps to allow for an greater intake of arriving Somalis fleeing the drought. This new extension of the Ifo camp is part of a two-step extension process that will allow for an additional 50,000 refugees to be housed in tents, instead of makeshift structures outside of the camp. Camp officials are grateful for the opportunity these extensions give to create a more secure environment for incoming refugees, where they can receive the services they need and are entitled to.

To learn more, read the LWF newsletter, Lutheran World Information, article.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Horn of Africa Drought: 3rd LWF Update on Dadaab Camp

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Matthew Ley

This new report from Lennart Hernander, Lutheran World Federation Representative, Kenya/Djibouti Program, gives an up-to-date account of the situation in Kenya. It has some great data on how many new refugees are coming into the camps while reminding the reader of the context into which the come. Also, it gives good data on how the specifics of aid are being carried out, from food and water to security and registration.

Read the update

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.

Horn of Africa Drought: Luley’s Story

Posted on July 8, 2011 by Matthew Ley

Luley standing between her tukul and tent that now serves as her home. Credit: Faith Kagwiria

Reduced rains have led to drought throughout the Horn of Africa leading a severe water shortage and higher food prices as crops and animals pass away and are eaten for survival. Many have had to leave their homes in search of food and water. Below is the story of Luley Hassan Aden as shared by Faith Kagwiria, who works at the refugee camp in Dadaab.


Luley Hassan Aden is a young woman of 19 years, living on the outskirts of section L10, Hagadera Refugee Camp in Dadaab, North Eastern Kenya. This is where many newly arrived people from Somalia, like herself, are settling. This afternoon she is resting and cooking in a space between her Tukul (a small Somali type of “lounge”) and her “house”, which is a tent she received from the LWF three days ago.

Luley married when she had just turned 17 and is now the mother of two children. After living peacefully with her husband in Sakow division, Bu’alle district in the middle Juba region of Somalia, she decided to start the longest journey of her life, fleeing from the insecurity that had become unbearable.

“I needed to look for peace for my children and myself, not caring to know where I was going,” he says poignantly. Her husband was forced to flee from their home due to fears of being killed by the militia, after he refused to enlist himself as a fighter. “I don’t know if my husband is alive or dead, and when my children ask when their dad is coming, I always lie to them that he went for a long journey and has delayed there because of lack of money,” she narrates as her watery-eyes stare with desperation.

At home in Somalia they kept cattle and she started her journey to Kenya bringing the family livestock with her. But all the cattle died before she found her way to the refugee camp. On their way from Sokow, between Dhooble and Loboi, they encountered bandits who robbed all the people in her ‘convoy’ and left them with no valuables.

Luleys says that she is slowly beginning to accept her situation, and is trying to adapt to her new status in Hagadera camp, as a refugee assisted by relatives and agencies. Her greatest challenge is how to bring up her two children in the camps, without her husband.

When she arrived in Hagadera, relatives in the camp first hosted her in a small dilapidated Tukul. She stayed in this structure for four days weathering the biting cold of the night that did not have mercy for her children. “I had never stayed in a Tukul as my house, and my children developed a cold. Life was so miserable and I felt I had lost it all” says Luley.

She was visited by the block leader who took her details and gave her the ration card number for food distribution. The same afternoon she was visited by a team of staff in the camp. “We found her in an unbearable state and based on the criteria we use, she was given priority. We have done follow-up visit and provided her with a tent to sleep in” explains Keinan, a LWF social worker based in Hagadera.

Gifts to ELCA International Disaster Response allow the church to respond globally in times of need. Donate now.