“Having grown up on a farm, I can understand what it means to lose your livestock. It is not only a source of milk and meat but used as currency; livelihoods are linked to it.” Gabriela Hearst shared these poignant thoughts on her Instagram account following her recent trip to Kenya with Save the Children. Raised on a ranch in Uruguay, the now New York-based designer, whose husband Austin Hearst serves on the board of the charity, wanted to highlight the plight of the people of Turkana County, a pastoral community that is struggling to survive the devastating effects of Africa’s current famine.
Accompanying Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles, she was able to witness first hand the terrible toll drought is having on the local population – it is threatening more than 20 million children and families in Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and neighboring countries, 3.5 million in Kenya alone.
In rural Turkana County, where more than 60,000 children are at risk of starving to death, the women who Gabriela met during her trip are now having to find alternative sources of income. “The women build their own houses, care for their children, dig holes with their hands on dry river beds for water and carry the containers for miles,” said the designer, “Their sheer intent to persevere is inspiring.”
As part of the Global Emergency Response Coalition, Save the Children is one of eight US charities working together to help save the lives of children and their families affected by this hunger crisis, which will only worsen unless the international community rapidly increases funding to the region.
Visiting an outreach center supported by the charity, one of 149 in four of the driest counties in the north of Kenya, Gabriela was struck by the sheer scale of the operation. Wooden sheds with thatched roofs house dedicated teams providing hundreds of families with care and support. Children are screened and treated for a range of illnesses, including malnutrition, and purification tablets are provided so that families can ensure their water is safe to drink.
“Bringing awareness and action to this crisis is imperative,” she said today, “We are all connected more than we are aware. I can’t and I will not forget them.”
For more information about the Global Emergency Response Coalition or to support the Turkana people and the wider African population affected by this devastating drought please visit the charity’s website here.