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Feeding starving Christians in East Africa

“The conditions were incredibly hard … dust storms were raging which made life almost unbearable … there was no escaping the dust and grime which caked and was stuck to their skins and in their eyes and ears. It was humbling to see people getting a measure of maize and beans and cooking oil for a certain period of time and to realise that that was the only food they would have available until the next distribution.”

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Rudolf van Noppen, Barnabas Fund’s Western Australia Coordinator, visited the East Africa in June to see the desperate needs and what Barnabas Fund’s Project Joseph is doing to help.

In places like Marsabit in Kenya – where Barnabas Fund has come to the aid of 4,000 families – the meals provided through Project Joseph are all that stand between Christians and starvation. “People came from great distances … at the last [centre] we visited they had been waiting since 9.00am, we arrived at 5.00pm … Many people, if not all,” Rudolf recalls, “would spend all their time just to obtain the basic necessities like food and water.”

A struggle to survive

For many people, a desert is a mythical, imaginary place, but Australians have no trouble picturing an arid landscape of sun-bleached dirt – the legendary Outback serves as a unique national reminder of a place where just surviving is a challenge.

Across East Africa, green has turned brown and farmland and pastures have disintegrated to dust, as the region endures probably the worst drought and famine in living memory. Our Christian brothers and sisters face a daily struggle to survive.

Thankful for the bare minimum

The effect of famine across the region has been catastrophic, creating an exodus of the hungry, as families – many of whom become separated – desperately seek food and shelter. There are 90,000 refugees in Camp Rhino in north-east Uganda at the time of writing, almost all Christians from South Sudan. United Nations’ agencies have been supplying the camp with food, but in May, the U.N. World Food Programme cut their ration in half. The food supplied by Project Joseph, distributed by the Church of Uganda, is needed to meet the refugees’ most basic needs – 60% of the camp’s food is provided by Barnabas Fund.

Rudolf met the Ugandan commander at the camp who pointed out, “There is no essential difference between us and the people in the camps other than that we have the means and the choice to eat what we like and have plenty.” Before each food distribution, Christian refugees gathered to say grace. Rudolf was deeply touched: “To witness people who have nothing and have lost everything bow their heads and give thanks to God for the food they are about to receive and being genuinely thankful for it was an experience I will not easily forget. I can say that ‘saying grace’ will never be the same again for me.”

Church leaders appeal for food gifts until Christmas

Barnabas Fund has provided 12 million meals (and counting) to believers in East Africa since March 2017, thanks to the incredible generosity of Christians around the world. But church leaders in Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan launched a further desperate appeal last month for food aid to keep refugees and churchgoers alive until Christmas. More than 300 a day are still arriving from South Sudan into Camp Rhino – the number of refugees at the camp (currently 90,000) is predicted to rise to 150,000 within six months.

Just 23 cents will provide a day’s food for one person and $32.60 can provide an East African family with maize, flour and beans for one month.

Find out more information on Barnabas Fund, Project Joseph and how you can help. 

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