Case Study

Food insecurity in East Africa

Alight's comprehensive regional response works to preserve the peace and safety of displaced people by co-creating thoughtful solutions with their communities to build resilience and pursue the lives and futures they want.

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Alight’s 5-country response

As food insecurity impacts more than 40 million people and nearly 10 million children are acutely malnourished or worse, families are feeling out of control. Alight is there with a comprehensive regional response spanning Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan. In many remote communities, the only humanitarian organization people have ever known is Alight.

We have one eye on this emergency, mobilizing lifesaving care and working to preserve the peace and safety of community. But we also have an eye to the future and are working on thoughtful solutions to help communities build resilience and pursue the lives and futures they want.

Lifesaving care – emergency nutrition and medical support

Therapeutic feeding – In the Horn of Africa alone, 7 million children are acutely malnourished. They need immediate care to fend off starvation and return to safety and health. Alight operates more than 100 nutrition centers – some static, some attached to medical centers, some outreach in the remotest areas – throughout East Africa. We work with children under 5 as well as pregnant and nursing mothers Depending on severity of the case, they undergo either in-patient or out-patient feeding and micronutrient support. Intestinal worms interfere with a person’s nutrient uptake and can cause malnutrition, so our medical teams also administer deworming medications and campaigns.

Alight health promoters find the children and mothers who need our support most. They’re in the community visiting families, holding community screening events, and enrolling children and nursing mothers to join our feeding programs. And they stay with families, providing one-on-one case management to care for patients all the way to food resilience.

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Peace and safety of home – urgent access to food

Food baskets – More than 40 million in East Africa are food insecure, on the brink of malnutrition. Most don’t yet require therapeutic feeding, and immediate intervention will help them return to some stability. Alight is working to connect families to emergency food supplies as soon as possible. During the famine of 2011, our Somali team held hundreds of food distribution events targeted at displaced people and the most vulnerable and at-risk communities. Staples like rice or flour, beans or lentils, vegetable oil, sugar and salt are all included in a typical food basket, with 2,100 calories per day per person. Or, where food is available in the market – albeit outside the purchasing power of a family – we can provide cash. Connecting a family with enough food often means the difference between hanging on in their community and being forced to leave to try and find food and support elsewhere.

Feeding animals – For so many families in this region, livestock is how families survive. They rely on their animals for nutrition – milk is a key element in children’s diets – and raising and selling livestock is how families make their living. But millions have died already and 22 million animals are at-risk. By providing feed for goats and cattle we can protect families’ livelihoods and ability to remain in their homes and communities.

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Pursuit of a dignified life – sourcing safe, clean water

From a trickle… Immediate access to clean water is priority one. Alight’s Horn of Africa team is poised to provide emergency access to safe water, beginning with 6,200 most at-risk households through the rehabilitation of shallow wells and water kiosks, fuel subsidies to help communities keep their deep well pumps running, and emergency water trucking to the most vulnerable villages and settlements. Hygiene is more important than ever when water is scarce, so we’re rehabilitating and ensuring separation of human and livestock water sources and promoting hygiene best practices in schools.

...To a stream – Smart water solutions that help communities weather drought and build verdant food systems do exist. But they require planning and commitment, especially in times when water is bountiful. Alight’s roofed water catchment system helps communities harvest water all year long and store it safely for the dry season. Being able to depend on water means having the agency and control to build the life you want and cope when times get tough. Our teams are also introducing families to drip irrigation methods and helping set up small kitchen gardens (small plots adjacent to the home) and home water harvest techniques to help build resiliency.

Solutions through a broad resilience – Just as many factors have come together to cause famine and hunger, there’s many small ways we can help families flourish. Mother-to-mother nutrition support groups and village savings and loan associations, create mechanisms for neighbors to help each other when times get tough. Mothers showing other mothers ways of preparing and preserving food and how to do small-scale kitchen gardening can maximize nutritional resources and strengthen community bonds. Farmers and pastoralists training one another in agricultural techniques and livestock grazing can help both diversify food options and income sources.

Ultimately, communities want to hold the solutions to their own shared problems, the keys to their future. And faith and community-based organizations are a big part of that. The people turn to these groups and individuals for comfort and sanctuary, they’re a constant force driving their communities to bravely be better. One of these groups is Catholic Sisters. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alight worked with Sisters in South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and beyond to amplify their efforts providing reliable health messages to their communities. Sisters are already responding to the current food insecurity. In South Sudan, they’re redistributing food from areas of plenty to regions of scarcity; feeding displaced and at-risk children; and planting and cultivating their own crops of millet and peanuts. Supporting Sisters and other community leaders expands these changemakers’ incredible capacity to help their communities manage shock and become more resilient.

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