The Turkana region of northwest Kenya has since time immemorial been home to nomadic or seminomadic peoples. Many of them have now become settled today, but the majority still find themselves forced by shortage of water and grazing to move with their herds of cattle to wherever such water and pasture can be found. The Turkana people number close on half a million souls, and like the better-known Maasai people they too depend almost entirely on their livestock for survival. In the past it was always cattle that formed the basis of their livelihood, but today the Turkana also keep camels, goats and sheep. But just as before, the size of their flocks is what determines the social status of a family. To this day their cattle have a particularly high status and the Turkana people even gives them individual names. In the mythology of their tribe, the cattle have a mediating role between the souls of the ancestors and the living.
(Father Avelino Bassols baptizing a baby with water from the river in the Turkana region © Aid to the Church in Need)
By now, however, many of the Turkana people have become Christians. Around 25% of them have been baptised, but there are many others who also feel a close bond with the Catholic Church. In fact the missionaries only came to this region in the 1960s, when there was a great famine, and the government relied heavily on the help of the Catholic Church. In the five decades since then a great deal has been achieved, and to this day the majority of the healthcare programmes, the schools and the kindergartens, are provided by the Catholic diocese of Lodwar, which was established in 1978.
While this region normally suffers from drought, this year there was widespread and devastating flooding in April and May. A number of people died, their cattle drowned, and many of their huts were destroyed. As a result, many of these people have now lost the basis of what was already a precarious existence and they are now suffering hunger and, in some cases, diseases. The dwellings in the parishes of Kalokol and Nakwamekwi were almost completely swept away by the floods, since the flimsy structures of mud and twigs could not withstand the force of the waters.
Once again today, the people in this neglected region of Kenya find themselves counting above all on the help of the Church. And so the bishop of Lodwar has sent us an urgent appeal for emergency aid, so that he can help the worst affected parishes. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has responded with a grant ofÂ $16,000, which will help some 500 families, averaging around six per family, with essential food and medicines
The vital work of Catholic charities like Aid to the Church In Need provide a lifeline to the Church wherever she is poor, persecuted or threatened. Please help our work by donating online or send your donation to Aid to the Church in Need, PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153. Ph: (02) 9679-1929
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