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Last updated November 24.

Feb. 16, 2009 issue

Kenya famine affects 10 million, MCC partner distributes 26 tons of corn flour

By Tim Shenk Mennonite Central Committee

AKRON, Pa. — Mennonite Central Committee is sponsoring the distribution of 26 tons of corn flour to nearly 4,000 people in a drought-stricken area of southern Rift Valley Province in Kenya.

Residents of Kenya’s Kajiado district gather for a distribution of food that Mennonite Central Committee sponsored in response to a drought and famine. — Photo provided by MCC

Residents of Kenya’s Kajiado district gather for a distribution of food that Mennonite Central Committee sponsored in response to a drought and famine. — Photo provided by MCC

Kenya is in the midst of a famine, and its government is appealing for aid. In a recent statement, Kenya’s president said about 10 million people need food assistance because of shortages caused by drought, global economic problems and political violence in the country’s breadbasket region.

MCC provided $10,000 to a Kenyan partner organization, Maasai Integrated Development Initiatives, to purchase the flour and distribute it in Kajiado district. Most of the recipients herd livestock and are members of the Maasai tribe.

In exchange for food, some residents of Kajiado are participating in community work projects organized by MIDI, including fencing fields, constructing roads, digging trenches for water pipes and building barriers to prevent erosion.

Martha and Ron Ratzlaff, MCC representatives in Nairobi, visited Kajiado in early February and helped distribute food in several locations. The Ratzlaffs are from Calgary, Alta.

In the community of Ilgaarooj, a crowd gathered beside a Presbyterian church and offered a prayer of thanksgiving before the food distribution, the Ratzlaffs wrote in an e-mail.

Eighty-four people, mostly women, received corn flour, beans and cooking fat to carry home to their families. Some had walked about 12 miles.

“All were truly grateful,” the Ratzlaffs wrote. “We had similar experiences at all of the food distribution points and arrived back in Nairobi thankful for what MCC and their donors [were] able to contribute to the lives of these Maasai… . We heard ‘God bless you’ repeatedly, and indeed we are thankful to God.”

MCC also supports projects that help rural Kenyan communities conserve water and increase agricultural production. In par-ticular, MCC has helped two Kenyan organizations build hundreds of sand dams since the mid-1990s.

These concrete dams store water in the sandy beds of seasonal streams and provide rural communities with a source of water throughout the year, even in times of drought.

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