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Week 2: Lent reflections – Sunday 25 February

Philip Galgallo, Christian Aid’s country manager in Burundi, who grew up in Northern Kenya, provides a powerful reflection for the second week of Lent. He leads us into a deeper understanding of the wilderness of devastating drought. 

Donkey skeleton on dry soil

A forced Lent

Something to read: Mark 8: 31-38

Something to consider:

Growing up in Northern Kenya, Marsabit County, around Marsabit Mountain, I witnessed first-hand what has happened over the last four decades due to a changing climate. The lush vegetation and forest is all gone and the desert has quickly encroached into the mountain areas. 

Drought and famine was initially a rare phenomenon, the first I observed was the devastating one of 1984 that wiped out livestock and claimed several lives.

Coping with famine

I was in junior school then and going to school during that period was essential for most kids. That is where we could get our only meal of the day. I guess you could call it ’forced fasting’.

My first time eating yellow maize was not one of the best of meals, but it was all that was available to keep us alive, thanks to the response from humanitarian agencies.

Most families would send their kids to school so that they didn’t starve. Families first begin to ration portions served at home, then skip meals, then only children ate eat meals, and hides would be boiled for soup as nothing else was available.

Many other different coping approaches were tried before some eventually died. I survived thanks to all those who responded and now today I am responding.Then the cycle of drought was about 10 years. With time, this reduced to five years, then with the turn of the century, every three years, and, now, almost every year.

Current drought

The current drought that is ravaging the area has prolonged into this season. 

Thousands of livestock have been lost, farmers have not had a harvest these last four seasons and this season also does not look good.

Water points have dried up already in many parts of the country and families have to walk several miles to get to water points and queue for hours to get at least 20 litres of water for their family that is used for a day or two before the next trek. 

Our reading for this week echoes what we do during Lent – the sacrifice of giving things up. Give thanks to all who will sacrifice finances, time and other resources to make the world a better place this Lent.

Something to do

You can take action on climate change. Join the Big Shift campaign and ask banks to stop funding climate change.

Something to pray

Philip asks us to pray that no lives are lost to the impact of drought in Northern Kenya and to join our sisters and brothers in prayer for the rains to come in March. 

Thanks to supporters

And it is thanks to the many Christian Aid supporters who give sacrificially, so that many lives are saved every year. 

Though the frequency and magnitude of drought has increased over the years, the generosity and dedication of supporters and humanitarian workers has helped to prevent many lives from being lost. Thank you.

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