“As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside.”

MistyBuswell-Misty Buswell, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Save the Children

Ramatha, Jordan

May 30, 2012


It’s only about an hour from Amman to Ramtha, near the Syrian border, but once we arrive it feels like a world away. Save the Children is supporting a thousand Syrian refugee and Jordanian children every week in their child friendly space (CFS) here and giving mothers a place they can come to and share their experiences with other mothers who have fled the violence in Syria. And yet there’s still not enough space for everyone who wants to come and there’s a waiting list for when an additional CFS opens in a couple weeks.

Apart from being a bit crowded, it looks like most other CFS’s I’ve visited in other parts of the world – kids playing games and drawing with volunteers and a few staff supervising. I start playing catch with a six year old girl who’s sitting apart from the others, playing on her own. After a few tries she’s got the hang of it and is catching the ball, a beautiful smile lighting up her face. 

My Save the Children colleague tells me that this little girl was so distressed by what she saw that she has not spoken a word since she left Syria, three months ago.

 I’m glad that I could make her smile, even if it was only for a few minutes.

20120529_jordan_blog_mbI later learn that she and her four sisters and baby brother fled with their widowed mom after their home was attacked. Without a husband to earn an income, the family is especially vulnerable and is struggling to pay the high rents charged here and still put food on the table. I wonder what will happen when these families’ savings run out and they can’t afford the rent. The government and local communities have been really supportive of all those coming across the border but with more people coming, scarce resources will be even more stretched and the communities may not be able to cope.

The mothers are in a separate room talking, kids running in and out. When I and my Save the Children colleague enter they are all eager to tell us about their lives and every woman in the room has her own gripping story. Some walked for hours with their children to reach the border and many talk about their homes being destroyed. They all worry about their kids and the lasting effects on them of witnessing the violence. We hear about kids who run and hide when they hear loud noises and others who’ve regressed and lost their toilet training skills – all serious signs of distress. Although they may not have much to go back to, all the moms hold out hope of returning – “Inshallah before Ramadan, Inshallah the violence will stop, Inshallah this will all be over soon.”

After we’ve talked for a while about what these moms and their children need one woman looks at us intently. “As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside (Syria). You should help them, not us.”

Her words came back to me vividly when I learned of the killing of 32 children in Syria on Friday. Children just like the ones I met in that child friendly space in Ramtha. It’s shocking and horrifying that this could happen to children. Humanitarian agencies like Save the Children urgently need access so that we can help those families who need it most. As I leave the child friendly space in Ramtha and head back to Amman and my normal life, I resolve to bring these kid’s voices and stories back with me and not forget what I’ve seen.

All my dress, books and notebooks were burnt in the fire

Junima ShakyaJunima Shakya, Nepal Sponsorship Manager

Kimichaur, Nepal

May 1, 2012


Blog_02.28.12.After the fire incidentOn the evening of January 27 a fire started in an animal shed in the village of Kimichaur, in the Pyuthan district in Western Nepal. The fire swept through the village, damaging 14 houses and leaving the villagers desperate for help. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, but the fire destroyed homes, prized cattle and stored grains.

“My hard-earned money, 30,000 Nepali Rupees (about $380), inside my saving box was burnt to ashes,” shared Chetman, a local villager.

The day after the fire, Save the Children, in coordination with its partner organization in Pyuthan, began providing relief for the affected families with rice and a blanket for each family.

Blog_02.28.12_Children receiving student supportTwenty-seven children, including 15 sponsored children, were affected by the fire. “The children lost their books, bags and all their school supplies”, reported Umesh, a Program Coordinator. We immediately dispatched new supplies. Each student received a new school uniform, school bag, notebooks and other stationery. We focused our relief efforts on the children as it is so important for them to feel safe and secure after such a traumatic experience.

“Support for the community was provided by several relief organizations. But the community was very happy that their children were prioritized with special support and materials,” said Suraj Pakhin, a member of Save the Children staff in Nepal.

“My dress (school uniform), books and note books were all burnt in the fire. I thought ‘I won’t be able to go to school again.’ But I got a new school dress, books and supplies and I can join the school once again”, says a sixth grader .

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to find out more.

In a Haitian Tent Camp, Grit and Hope

Lane Hartill

Lane Hartill, Director of Media and Communications

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

January 11, 2012


What’s it like to be teenager in Haiti?

Well that depends.

If your parents have the means, you will go to a private school in Petionville, a hilltop neighborhood of Port-au-Prince where some of the best restaurants are found. Someone will drive you to school. Your uniform will be washed with laundry detergent regularly and, each day before school, it will be ironed.

Sounds pretty normal, right?

It’s not. In Haiti, this life is a pipe dream for most kids.

***

DARLINE_AND_MARCKENSELY_1_96509Go to the Gaston Margron camp in the Carrefour neighborhood, and you’ll find a family of teens, managing on their own. Marclene, a shy 20 year old, acts as the mom for her three younger siblings. She shares a hot tent with her sister, Darline, who recently had a baby, Marckensley (she named him after the Gospel of Mark in the Bible). The two sleep on a twin mattress with Marckensley between them. Their younger sister, Mouna, sleeps on a mat on the floor. Their clothes are slung over a cord that runs across the tent.

When I visited them, they had no money for laundry detergent, so they were rinsing their clothes in a big tub of water. It’s the same tub they bathe in; they don’t have money for body soap either, so they just rinse the sweat off.

Their biggest concerns are elemental: food, water, and sleeping. They rely on their brother, Ted, who sells plastic bags of water in the market. But they cost only a few pennies a piece. Ted has to sell hundreds to make a few dollars. He says he makes about a dollar a day. This is the money the five of them live on.

Life is tough. But Marclene tries not to let it get her down. She’s prays a lot—her Creole Bible is worn at the edges—and she tries to stay positive. Like young people everywhere, she scraped together enough money for a cell phone, but finding the money to pay to charge it is hard.

***

A lot of kids live like Marclene and her family. It’s not a pleasant life, but they’re getting by. One thing they don’t have to worry about: health care. Save the Children provides if for free in their tent camp. Our clinics in Haiti average 4,500 visits a month. And it’s all free.

A lot of people shake their head when they think of Haiti. But they shouldn’t. Haiti is still in better shape than a lot of countries. Think about it: It is next door to the U.S.; more than 1 million Haitian live in the U.S. and send remittances back to Haiti; foreign government pledged billions to Haiti and the first signs of private investment are slowly starting – a Marriott Hotel is slated to be built outside Port-au-Prince.

While the news out of Haiti is often grim, don’t give up on the country. 

Haitians certainly haven’t. And that should be a lesson to us all.

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Learn more about our ongoing work to ensure a better future for Haitian children.

 

Philippines Flooding Endangers Thousands of Children

Anna Lindenfors

Anna Lindenfors, Philippines Country Director

Manila, Philippines

December 19, 2011


It must have been terrifying. Flash floods create a fast moving body of water, sweeping away everything in its path. Cars, trees, people.

Yesterday morning (night-time in the Philippines) very heavy rainfall caused rivers to burst their banks and flood the area – killing hundreds and leaving thousands more stranded, without food or shelter, in the middle of the night.

Save the Children’s team on the ground launched into action immediately – assessing the damage on the most vulnerable children and their families.

Travelling along the highway you can see bodies lined up – waiting to be identified. Of the hundreds of dead, there are only a few injured. This is not unusual in a flood. Very few people caught up in the path of a flash flood will survive. Most of the dead were children, again not a surprise. Children are smaller, lighter and less likely to know where to go in an emergency. Those that survived will be cold, exhausted and terrified. Some will have been separated from their parents in the chaos.

Several of Save the Children’s team are coping with personal tragedy while responding to the flooding. One tells me their family didn’t survive intact. The debris of a destroyed house fell on top of a relative, killing her. Another tells me that water levels are so high their home is completely uninhabitable. They are worried about electrocution, so can’t return home. Yet another reports that they have run out of coffins in the town, and he doesn’t know what will happen.

The team carries on anyway, urgently struggling through debris and floodwater to reach the victims of the crisis. Several had been on the phone through the night, trying to comfort those stranded on rooftops of houses. 

The next few days are critical. Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies – and in the aftermath. Stagnant water and tainted supplies can cause disease. Longer term children will face hunger and malnutrition – in a country where 30% of the population already live beneath the poverty line, lost food stocks and lost income can push families over the brink.

50,000 children have been caught up in the flash flooding, and we’re working around the clock to reach vulnerable children and adults before it is too late. Please help us.

Save the Children is launching an emergency response to help victims of the flooding. Our experts are on the ground to distribute drinking water and essential items to families affected by the disaster. 

Kenya: A Food Revolution in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

Lane HartillLane Hartill, Director of Media and Communications

Dadaab, Kenya

October 19, 2011


The produce section at Ahmed’s shop is nothing short of impressive. 

Onions as big and red Christmas tree ornaments shine in the sun. Next to them, garlic the size of cats’ heads gaze up at customers. In the next bin, heaps of mangoes doze in the shade, waiting for their turn in a juice machine. On hot days, the juicer is a hit with people ready for smoothies ranging for guava to avocado.

But this is no swank gourmet store in Los Angeles.

It’s a shed in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The aisles are sand alleys where shoppers weave between dozing donkeys and smoking garbage. 

Dadaab has been here for 20 years and has worn, lived-in feel to it. To cater to the 440,00 refugees living here, markets have sprung up where you can buy everything from slick cell phones to knock-off European perfumes. 

But most shoppers make a beeline for the basics: onions, potatoes, and eggs. It’s a selection many never had in Somalia, a country that’s been on a slow downward slide for years. Food choices, especially in the countryside, have become limited. Most Somalis grew up with only two options: camel meat and camel milk. In a country where, in some places, camels out number people, dinner for many means fried camel meat washed down with sussa, camel milk that is left in the shade to ferment. Some children drink nothing but camel milk for the first few years of their life.  

The food selection in Dadaab for many years wasn’t much better, a meager array of shriveled produce and canned goods. Most people relied on processed food from aid agencies. While it was welcome, it wasn’t satisfying all the nutritional needs of children. That led to frightening rates of malnutrition.

But now, thanks to Save the Children, there’s a food revolution happening in this unlikely place. With financing from the French Government, Save the Children started a program in which vouchers are given to parents with children between 6 and 12 months old to buy fresh food and vegetables from select vendors. Parents receive vouchers worth about $10 a month that they can redeem at 45 vendors throughout the camp. 

The idea? Don’t wait for children to become malnourished and then try to save them. Feed them the right foods during the critical months of their life.  

The project has led to healthier children, and parents are saving money. But maybe most surprising: It brought about an evolution of the Somali palette. And that has led to an increase in profits for businessmen.   

Just ask Noor, the quiet father of nine came to Dadaab in 1993. For years he lived on the food he received in the camp but wished for something else.

“We never liked it, but the circumstances forced us to eat it,” he says. 

In 2005, he opened a shop in the Ifo section of Dadaab camp. Most of his time was spent snoozing the day away, waiting  for customers. He only sold dry goods like salt, powdered milk and rice – the same things most everyone else sold. On an average day, he’d make $1 to $2 profit. 

Now, with the arrival of Save the Children’s fresh food voucher project, there’s a steady stream of shoppers squatting next to his vegetable bins, rifling through tomatoes, oranges and onions.

He goes through, for example, 110 pounds of potatoes and 45 pounds of onions every week. He now makes $10 a day and is using that money to send his son to private school. He’s also constructed a house in Dadaab and he’s expanded his shop. 

What if the voucher program was to stop? Noor shook his head. We would have “absolutely no business at all,” he said. 

The project goes beyond nutrition. For parents to qualify for vouchers, they must show proof that their children were immunized and had their growth monitored at a clinic. This simple strategy has meant more than 50,000 children have been vaccinated and their health is carefully monitored.

Save the Children follows up with parents in the program to make sure they understand nutrition messages. And what foods provide what nutrients. But many parents have never seen pineapples or parsley, and are baffled about how to prepare them. So Save the Children provides cooking demonstrations to moms whose children have qualified for the program. Think Emril Live or Rachel Ray, Dadaab style. 

The fresh food revolution in Dadaab has meant big changes for people like Ahmed Kalif. The former school teacher who speaks solid English has henna-orange hair and gentle demeanor. He points to the giant sacks of potatoes in the back of his shop. He’s become so successful, he says, that he now sells wholesale to other shop keepers in the market.  

“I have 200 customers a day who buy with vouchers,” he says, adding that they buy 150 pounds of potatoes a week and hundreds of eggs. 

One of them is Fatuma Abdi Yussuf, a customer who regularly visits Ahmed. She says the days of bland porridge are over. 

“The moment I bring this into the house,” she says, pointing to her bag of fruits and vegetables, “(the children) fight over it.”

Arfon Yussuf Abdi, a grandmother who frequents Ahmed’s shop, said she was worried because she knew her grandchildren weren’t getting the proper vitamins and minerals. 

But now that she has access to fresh kale—a vegetable with so many micronutrients, it seems like there’s a health food store in every leaf—her grandkids are much healthier. 

“If there was no voucher project,” she says, perusing some potatoes, “I wouldn’t be able to buy this.” 

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.

Flooding in Pakistan Warrants Media Coverage

Faris-headshotFaris Kasim, Pakistan Senior Communications Coordinator, Save the Children

Islamabad, Pakistan

Monday, October 17, 2011


It takes me an hour to reach the only functional water pump in our area. I have to struggle with the large crowd of people there to fill my bucket. I then carry it back to our tent and have one roti (chappati) for breakfast. Later, I go out to help my brothers and father in picking cotton from the farm, which is flooded with two feet of water. We are trying to salvage as much of the cotton as possible, otherwise we will have much more debt to repay in the years to come. In the evening, I work for four to five hours in a tea shop near Mirpur Khas city, where I can make 50 rupees ($.57) every day."

These are the words of a 12-year-old boy in Mirpur Khas district. Even before the floods, the communities in worst affected areas of Lower Sindh were deprived of the even basic necessities such as proper housing, sufficient quantities of food, clean drinking water, education and healthcare.

DISPLACED_FAMILIES_LEAVING_THE_TEMPORARY_RELIEF_CAMP__93787Displaced families leaving a temporary relief camp in Badin district. The camp was flooded due to incessant rains.
Photo Creidt: Usman Rafique/Save the Children

This coastal belt of Sindh often experiences minor floods and was also affected by the massive riverine floods last year but what I have seen in the past few days is beyond belief. It seemed as if I had landed on another planet. What used to be farmlands resemble vast lakes touching the horizon while rows after rows of thatched shelters are pitched up along the only road spared by the floods.

Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless; those who were lucky to find room in government school buildings were pushed out when floodwaters rose to more than six feet. As men scrounge for work and fill forms to get relief supplies, women and children queue in long rows to collect water at hand pumps and trucks distributing clean water. Children walk up to their knees or swim in stagnant water.

The long term risks are alarming – peoples’ savings are invested in cattle and the surviving animals are becoming weaker due to the scarcity of food. “I am forced to sell our goats at half price before they die,” said one farmer, “and this is the only cash I have to support my family till spring crops are harvested next year. That’s why my children have to work in the city.” This means boys as young as six dropping out of schools and working in hazardous informal setups, including auto workshops, tea houses, bus stands and labor work at construction sites.

ABDUL_WAHID__12__AFTER_RECEIVING_A_MONTHLY_FOOD_RATIO_93779    Abdul, 12, smiles after receiving a monthly food ration from Save the Children.
Photo Creidt: Usman Rafique/Save the Children

After a lackluster response from the international community and national media, interest in this emergency is slowly picking up. BBC, CNN, and Al-Jazeera, as well as national electronic and print networks are now covering the real-life stories of families struggling to survive. They need to continue sharing the details of the crisis with the world before it is too late.

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Learn more about our emergency response to the flooding in Pakistan 

Help Us Respond to the Pakistan Flood Emergency. Please Donate Now.


Japan: Six Months After the Devastating Quake and Tsunami

Lane Hartill

Lane Hartill, Director of Media and Communications

Washington, D.C.

September 16, 2011 


Six months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Save the Children is still working with thousands of children on the ground in the disaster areas. As the crisis moves from an emergency into the recovery and development phase, Save the Children has created a 5-year plan to help children and communities create an environment where children can thrive.

To find out more about our work in Japan—and our long term plans—please listen to the podcast below featuring Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles and the Chief Operating Officer of Save the Children in Japan, Eiichi Sadamatsu.


Japan: Six Months After the Earthquake and Tsunami by Save the Children

For more information, check out photos of our work and the full report:

 

Six-month report on Save the Children's Japan earthquake and tsunami Emergency response and recovery program.

A Mother’s Love

Pc field head

Penelope Crump, Web Editor

Westport, Connecticut

September 8, 2011 


Penny just returned to the United States after spending two weeks surveying Save the Children's food crisis relief programs in Ethiopia. 

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Dido has been battling for his life at a Save the Children emergency nutrition program in drought-affected Ethiopia. I was so grateful for our staff and supporters that made this program possible. He wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.

As I sat by his mother Garo’s side, my only thought was to comfort her and her son as she told me of their hardship and suffering due to the drought in East Africa. The small puppet I played with put a faint smile on Dido’s sunken face. 

Picture 440 - garo dido color corrected
Like far too many families in Dido’s village, his family lost much of their herd when the rains failed for two years. The remaining livestock withered, producing a fraction of the milk they once had. “We were doing everything we could to support our family,” Garo told me. “We were just scraping by when Dido got sick.”

Malnutrition weakened the little boy and a cold escalated to pneumonia. Dido became a shadow of his former self, weighing 15 pounds – about half of his ideal healthy weight. 

Garo faithfully fought for her son’s life – feeding him fortified milk and porridge all hours of the day and night. Constantly by his side, she stays with him sleeping on a small gurney in Save the Children’s dedicated malnutrition unit. 

Garo knows the pain of losing a son; Dido’s nine-year-old brother died in an accident. Her sorrow washed over me as I saw her lips quiver and tears streams down her cheeks. She wept silently, not wanting to upset Dido. “I will not lose him,” she said fiercely.  

I told Garo Save the Children health workers brought me to see Dido’s progress. In just a few short days, he gained more than 2 pounds and was on the road to recovery.

“I have no words to describe how grateful I am to Save the Children,” she said, pressing her hand to her heart.

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.

 

Haway is Healthy

Pc field head

Penelope Crump, Web Editor

Westport, Connecticut

September 2, 2011 


Penny just returned to the United States after spending two weeks surveying Save the Children's food crisis relief programs in Ethiopia. 

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Little Haway from drought-parched Ethiopia had something special to celebrate on her first birthday – being alive. Her village, in what had been the dairy capitol of Ethiopia, has been devastated by drought. For two years, the rains haven’t come. Massive herds of goats and cows have been decimated. Almost nothing grows and fertile pastures are turning into deserts. Village children had nothing to eat but bark from the dying shrubs.

The drought took a significant toll on Haway’s village, her mother fell ill and couldn’t nurse her and there was no longer any milk to drink since the livestock had perished.

Haway became dangerously malnourished and weighed only 12 pounds when she was brought to a Save the Children emergency nutrition program. She was skin and bones, extreme hunger and severe acute malnutrition consumed her tiny body.

Like almost all children in drought-affected regions of Ethiopia, Haway also suffered from infections due to a lack of clean drinking water in her village. Infections hasten dangerous dehydration and muscle-wasting, forcing malnourished children into a rapid downward spiral.

You have to treat babies like Haway very carefully as feeding them the wrong nutrients can be dangerous,” says Sisay Demeke, a Save the Children emergency nutrition coordinator. “First, we treated her illness and restored her body’s balance of water, sodium and essential minerals.”

Haway
Once Haway became stable enough to digest protein and fat, she began receiving a weight-gaining mixture of milk, vitamins, minerals, grain, sugar and oil. And then she began to thrive. She went from listless to vibrant in just a few days. Her sunken face became full, eventually plumping up to the chubby-cheeked baby you see today.

Haway became well enough to go home and begin the out-patient treatment program – consisting of high-nutrient, high-calorie foods and water purification supplies.

The village matriarch, also named Haway, was astounded by the baby girl’s recovery. She has since become a health volunteer for Save the Children and has been trained to keep an eagle eye on health problems in her small tribal village.

I am happy to give back by being a health volunteer. If there were no Save the Children, many of the babies in my village would have died,” she says.

“They [Save the Children] give a very good service. The guys are clever and wash their hands. The food they provide to kids is very good and the way they provide it is kind.”

With her entire village now involved with Save the Children’s health and nutrition programs, Haway and the other young children have the support and hope they need to make it until rains will come back.

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.

 

Adjusting to Life in a Refugee Camp

David Klauber

David Klauber, Save the Children Intern

Dolo Ado Refugee Transit Center, Ethiopia

August 19, 2011 


Magala Hafow, 34, has lived in Ethiopia for exactly 23 days.  She is one of the thousands of Somali refugees who have fled their home to seek food and safety in the refugee camps across the Ethiopian border. The journey from Somalia to Ethiopia often entails great peril for asylum seekers who must walk for days on end to reach the border with little food and water.  For Magala, this journey was particularly scary.  She is the mother of three boys, ages 4, 5, and 10, and is five months pregnant. While giving birth to her 5-year-old, she developed a severe eye problem, which has deteriorated to the extent that she cannot see well. She says that she is gradually going blind. 

But despite these tremendous obstacles, deciding to make the difficult journey from their home to Ethiopia was very simple. “We came here because I was scared for my children,” she says. “It was the only option we had. Because of the drought there is no food in Somalia; children were dying of hunger.  I just want to get food and medicine for my children.”  She describes witnessing the landscape around her small town, Kasa Hadere, transform into desert over the course of the past few months.  Her husband, a farmer, had become very ill and could not work and Magala’s sight had deteriorated to such a state that she could no longer work either.  

MRS._MAGALA_2_92453Magala and her sons.
Photo Credit: David Klauber/Save the Children

Though Magala and her family have now made it to Ethiopia, their journey remains unfinished.  She and her sons have been living in the temporary intake centers in Dolo Ado where asylum seekers are registered and granted official status as refugees.  The refugee camps, 30 miles away, have been so overburdened by the massive surge of arriving refugees that they can no longer accommodate any more people.  The construction of a new camp is underway but in the meantime Magala and her family must continue to live in the transit center where nearly 11,000 other refugees are waiting to be registered and relocated.

Recognizing the dire health status of arriving refugees such as Magala and her boys and the delays they face in reaching the refugee camps, Save the Children has initiated a feeding program in the refugee transit and registration centers.  The program provides two daily meals for all children aged 5 and younger. Magala explains how important this service is because the only other food offered to refugees at the center is difficult for her boys to eat.  “This is the only option we have now. My children are not able to eat the other food that is provided here because they are not used to it and makes them sick. So I take them here to Save Children’s tent where they can eat and also get milk.  I am so appreciative of the feeding program.  They have now started eating again and I am so relieved.” 

Magala still worries about her sons as she watches them struggle to adapt to such a new and harsh environment.  “The children are afraid. We were not from an urban area.  They are not used to being around so many people so they are having a very hard time mixing with the other children.  But I am hopeful that they will become more settled when we get to the refugee camps.”  Magala says that she is also feeling hope for her unborn child and the chance for new life in Ethiopia.  “I’m expecting I can get medicine for my eyes here and that my children can have food, milk, medicine, and schooling.  This is all I want.”

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

Help Us Respond to the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa. Please Donate Now.