Recent news reports have sparked heightened interest in the suffering there, but the crisis has been building for years, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of the Baptist Global Response international relief and development organization.
"We are grateful the mass media have begun reporting on the situation and that more people are becoming concerned," Palmer said. "Southern Baptists have been engaged in humanitarian work in that area since the 1970s, and we are initiating new projects so people who care will have plenty of opportunities to reach out to people in the Horn of Africa who are in desperate need."
The United Nations estimates about 770,000 people have fled to refugee camps and about $1.3 billion will be needed to address the crisis.
The Horn of Africa suffers from long-term cycles of drought and famine, and Southern Baptists began months ago to address the developing crisis, said Mark Hatfield, who with his wife Susan directs BGR work in Sub-Saharan Africa and is helping coordinate response to the crisis.
"East Africa has experienced cycles of hunger due to failed crops, economic crises and climatic changes for decades, with those cycles becoming closer and closer together in recent years," Hatfield said. "Southern Baptists have been involved in addressing these needs. In 2009, the World Hunger Fund helped respond to a severe drought among the Masai of southern Kenya. Over $1 million dollars was allocated to provide supplemental feeding during that cycle of hunger.
"Since then, over $190,000 for feeding projects focused in northern Kenya and Southern Sudan," Hatfield added. "We are assessing the current situation among the people groups we have relationships with, and we are working with our BGR partners in the East Africa area to develop ministries that will reach out to those most vulnerable during this critical time of hunger and suffering."
Donations designated for the Horn of Africa crisis can be made through the International Mission Board at www.imb.org. BGR will post updates on the relief work as more information becomes available. Updates can be monitored on Twitter (www.twitter.com/gobgr), Facebook (http://on.fb.me/hKaE6J) and www.gobgr.org.
Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net