In midst of extreme instability, lack of governance, and increasingly limited precious resources, East African Somalia has found itself in the heart of a severe food crisis that has left 29,000 children under the age of five dead and 3.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, an estimated 12.4 million people are in need of humanitarian relief throughout the Horn of Africa due to extreme drought. This is not just the issue of a failed state and its neighbors, this is an international crisis. In the year 2000, we defined ourselves as a global society by enacting the Millennium Development Goals – a collection of eight objectives for international development including eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality and women empowerment, reduction of child mortality rates, maternal health improvement, and the eradication of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Our hopes stated that our indicators would deem these goals attained by 2015, but well, how do you think we’re doing? How do you think Somalis, Kenyans, and Ethiopians feel about our collective progress right about now?
The good news is that this isn’t just another article to make you feel horrible about the state of the world. The better news is that you, personally, in your own home or at your desk at work, can significantly impact the crisis in Somali. The best news is that this is going to take barely any of your time because I’ve already done the grunt work for you. Earlier this summer I spent a month in Kenya studying public health. I was perusing through a CNN article about how the famine has impacted Kenya and noticed a link to an NGO, Child Fund International, who is providing meals to children at schools across the country. I wondered how this publicity helped the efforts the Children’s Fund so I dove into the Compete data to see for myself.
Apparently, it helps to point people in the right direction. In a world of information overload, it is insanely impossible to find out where your efforts will be best spent and which donation or investment will give you the greatest social return. I have spent the majority of the past few years looking at systemic social change in a variety of lights. I have studied various social entrepreneurship classes both in Boston at Northeastern University at abroad at partners schools. Last summer I worked for Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum, a strategic venture philanthropy initiative that partners funders with local nonprofits exhibiting effective practices, innovative thinking, leadership, and potential. Most recently, I was part of a Strategic Philanthropy & Nonprofit management class last spring which gave away $25,000 to four nonprofits in the area on the basis of need, capacity, funding priority, and impact.
I’ve decided to put all that I’ve learned to use to make a list of three great initiatives working to assist Eastern Africa in the face of drought and famine. Each of the following organizations has been given three or four stars out of the four star ranking by Charity Navigator, The Guide to Intelligent Giving in accordance with their organizational efficiency and capacity.
1. Fix the health care system with AMREF – I had the pleasure of visiting AMREF’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya this past May. As a person who cannot appreciate measurement enough, especially social impact measurement, I have been infinitely impressed by AMREF’s dedication to evaluating their programs and using sound indicators to track results and make adjustments as need be. Beyond this, their programs are extremely comprehensive and community-based. According to Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi based analyst for the International Crisis Group, “We don’t act until the crisis is in full bloom and then we throw bags of wheat. That is not how to deal with crisis. We need to help communities to fend for themselves, to help themselves, to rebuild their traditional methods of coping.” AMREF pairs this bottom-up methodology with effective business principles and executes extremely impactful programming to address health needs across Africa. Read what they are doing to address the drought in the horn of Africa and how they are investing in long-term solutions to reduce the impact of the famine on community health. You can help them in their efforts here.
2. Save the livestock with Oxfam – In an effort to establish a sustainable intervention, Oxfam has taken to heart the need to invest in the wellbeing of livestock. It is not enough to feed the children of East Africa, though they are doing that as well. Perhaps a more far-reaching investment should be made in providing water and care for livestock. This is exactly what Oxfam is doing – and more. They are also offering donation packages that support clean drinking water initiatives and long-term irrigation sources. Click here to be a part of this big picture thinking.
3. Support farmers as a vehicle to long-term community development – Join ActionAid in providing immediate food and water relief alongside preventative ventures. ActionAid attributes the premise of drought and famine to climate change and inefficient use of resources. Given this, a focus of their efforts since 2010 has been to advocate for the support of famers affected by climate change through livelihood diversification and small-scale irrigation techniques. Help build all the legs of the stool by joining their team here.
Where else are you looking to support or who have you already supported in these efforts? Leave your comments below!
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.