Exactly a year ago, ActionAid took part inthe Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for EastAfrica. Then people were starving and famine was declared. Now – whilst there is still a way to go – the situation is so much better. And ActionAid is proud to have played its part.
As the Independent on Sunday wrote, "on the perpetual conveyor belt of unpleasantness that is international news, occasionally there comes a parcel of hope."
In July 2011, the Independent told the story of Zippora Mbungo, an 86-year-old Kenyan woman, who, in order to deaden the pangs of hunger enough to give her meagre rations to her grandchildren, bound her stomach tightly with rope. As they explained, today - thanks to ActionAid - that rope is no longer knotted around her shrunken stomach, but hangs on her wall, a memento of the lengths to which she was once driven, and of the outcomes that the aid effort has brought.
Zippora now eats regularly, has a small but flourishing allotment and has been trained in leadership and entrepreneurship. And she’s put that training into immediate effect by organising older villagers and demanding – successfully – that women be included on the food relief committees.
Yet that’s not all that ActionAid is celebrating. We have just heard that we have won a prestigious Technology 4 Good innovation award sponsored by Microsoft and CTT.
During the famine, ActionAid rolled out a partnership project with infoasaid, a consortium of the BBC World Service Trust and media development agency Internews. The aim was to help combat food insecurity amongst communities affected by the drought, using innovative technology – Frontline SMS and Freedom Fone – to transmit information simultaneously to multiple recipients from a laptop computer.
Sellina Narumbe is a pastoralist from Isiolo, northern Kenya benefitted from the project. Reliant on her livestock for her survival, she had been hit hard by the drought. Lack of pasture killed forty of her fifty goats, and left her with only seven cows from her original stock of twenty.
ActionAid provided Sellina and other local farmers with mobile phones and solar chargers. "Every Monday I receive a list of livestock prices from Rahab Mburunga who is ActionAid’s Data Officer in Isiolo," explained Sellina.
"She forwards the information from the Ministry of Livestock. Once I receive the list, I transcribe the livestock prices to our local language, Turkana. Then I write a bulletin and post it on a notice board in the community. I then organise a community gathering to alert people to the fact that new price information is available. The same process follows with information I get on staple food commodity prices sourced from the Ministry of Agriculture.
"The bulletins help us to keep tabs on the price of staple foods such as maize, beans and vegetable oil. The market information allows us to achieve better prices for our livestock, when we sell to traders. This boosts our household income.
"The solar chargers have also provided a source of revenue. I charge other mobile phones for 20 Kenyan Shillings [approx. 10p]. This allows me to purchase air time for my phone."
It’s great news and wouldn’t have been possible without the financial support of ActionAid supporters across the UK.