Shortly after dawn on a Tuesday morning last summer, raiders from the Borana tribe broke into a northern Kenya school in Turbi. With machetes and ak-47 assault rifles, they slaughtered 22 children and 50 other villagers, all members of the rival Gabra tribe. One of the few survivors was a severely injured three-year-old girl whose attacker failed to behead her.

This massacre resulted from ongoing rivalries now worsened by drought-stricken livestock herds on which both tribes depend. For five consecutive seasons, the winter rains have all but vanished in a large swath of eastern Africa, triggering violent competition for water, grazing land, and food. The extended drought has resulted in a 50 to 80 percent loss of livestock, mostly cattle. The declining herds of many rural families are below the minimum threshold to support life. Consequently, livestock raiding has become a huge regional problem, resulting in more violence.

The drought has severely impacted families with young children, causing some parents to marry off pre-teenage daughters they cannot feed. Parents may take young children out of school and put them to work.

The sprawling drought-hit area cuts across eastern Africa from Eritrea on the Horn of Africa to Tanzania, 1,400 miles south. An estimated 11 million are at risk of starvation. Some 2.9 million receive food aid now. Despite limited seasonal rains this past winter, drought conditions persist.

Patrick Webb, an international relief expert and nutrition professor at Tufts University, told Christianity Today that governments don't always follow through with their public commitments to relief aid. Christine Head with World Vision in Nairobi, Kenya, told CT, "Donors tend to wait and wait, and that puts a lot of ...

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June 2006

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