Over 6,000 children in drought-stricken east Africa will receive a daily meal from this week onward. It is all thanks a charity founded by a Catholic aid worker who was recently declared a “CNN Hero” and awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for his work.
“The situation in east Africa has become increasingly desperate, with failed rains leading to dire food and water shortages. What was already a crisis has become an emergency,” Magnus MacFarlane Barrow, chief executive of Mary’s Meals, told CNA from the charity’s headquarters in Argyll, Scotland.
The initiative will focus upon the Turkana area of northern Kenya. It is just one of four countries in east Africa that have declared drought areas by the United Nations. The others are Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia.
The present drought is thought to be the worst in 60 years.
Mary’s Meals already works in Turkana providing children with a daily school meal. The idea is to give them the essential nutrition which then enables them to go to classes. Now, though, the charity will continue to provide that crucial meal during the school holidays as other food sources, such as crops and livestock, begin to perish due in the drought.
“Hunger is widespread and animals have started to die,” said Tim Flynn, administrator for the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar which delivers Mary’s Meals in the region.
“We know that things are going to get worse because there is no expectation of any rain, if it comes at all, before October.”
The Mary’s Meals assistance will primarily target nursery-aged children, the most at risk age group for hunger-related diseases. The new program will bring the total number of children that Mary's Meals reaches in Kenya to more than 24,000.
“We are considering how we can respond to further urgent requests for more help from our friends and partners in Northern Kenya,” said Magnus.
Inspired by his Catholic faith, Magnus founded Mary’s Meals in 2002 after meeting a 14-year-old Malawian boy whose mother was dying of AIDS. When Magnus asked the boy what he wanted from life, his reply was: “To have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”
Today Mary’s Meals works in 16 of the world’s poorest countries, including Sudan, Malawi, Haiti and Liberia, and feeds over 532,000 children.