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Operation RESPOND for the Horn of Africa Drought

Children receive a meal at the ECCD center in Kariburi.

Of all the natural disasters that hit children and families throughout the world every year, guess what kind attracts the most donations by far? Waves and surges.*

Guess which disasters typically attract the least support? Droughts. Like the one in the Horn of Africa right now, putting more than 12 million people at risk of starvation. Nearly 9 million of them, including many children, are in two countries where we work, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The difference in funding is understandable — tsunamis are spectacular and fast; droughts creep along and don’t exactly rivet the attention — and it may account for the fact that, according to the U.N., nearly half of the needed $2 billion response to the drought remains unfunded.

At ChildFund’s headquarters in Richmond, Va., the drought is top of mind. Not long ago, our staff had the chance to learn more about it, and to respond.

Every few weeks, staff members gather for a program we call "Lunch and Learn," in which we bring our lunches and enjoy a presentation about our work with children — community mobilization, say, or child protection initiatives or programs in any of the 31 countries where we work.

Two weeks ago, we did it a little differently. We called it “Learn and No Lunch” — and asked staff to contribute what they would ordinarily spend on lunch to ChildFund's emergency response in drought-stricken Kenya and Ethiopia. The presentation, appropriately, was about the dire situation there and what ChildFund is doing to respond.

Cynthia Price, our director of communications, passed the hat. Staff gave more than $600. “I can’t tell you how moved I was, sitting there at my desk and counting all that money," says Price.

In Lokitaung, Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund president and CEO, talks with children about the drought and its impact on them.

We'd like to invite you to respond, too. In fact, we’re calling this opportunity Operation RESPOND. It’s easy: Just grab your cell phone and text “RESPOND” to 90999 to donate $10 to our ChildAlert emergency fund.** Then take the time you've saved from that lunch hour to learn about the drought and ChildFund's response — updates, impacts on families and a field report from Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund’s president and CEO.

Goddard, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya in the early ’80s, during another major drought, has just returned from that country. In the airport before she began her journey home, she tweeted, “Leaving Kenya after seeing drought & our programs 4 children. Humbling experience seeing how some live & how hard staff work.” Look forward to reading about her experiences on our website and blog and, on Sept. 7, at noon Eastern time, in a live wall chat on our Facebook site.

*Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters

** Your tax-deductible donation of $10 will appear on your next cell phone bill, which you should keep among your records until tax time. You can text up to two to three donations per month, depending on your mobile provider. Message and data rates may apply.


ChildFund International has earned high ratings from Charity Navigator, the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charities Review Council.

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