CAFOD ambassador Emma Rigby visits life-saving projects in Northern Kenya

18 July 2017

In March 2017, CAFOD and the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched East Africa Crisis Appeals to raise money for the millions of people on the brink of famine because of ongoing drought and conflict.  To date, CAFOD’s appeal has raised almost £4 million, and the DEC appeal has raised more than £60 million. 

Actress and CAFOD celebrity ambassador, Emma Rigby recently travelled to Northern Kenya to see how money raised from both appeals is being used to tackle the hunger crisis.

Emma said of the experience:

“Through no fault of their own, the drought has caused people to lose their entire livelihoods – cattle, goats, camels – which they are utterly dependent upon for their survival. It’s heart-breaking. Yet despite the situation they find themselves in, I met some amazing women who have somehow found the will and the spirit to survive.”

Help us respond to emergencies as soon as they happen – sign up to make a regular gift to emergencies 

Witnessing how your donations change lives in Kenya

During the five-day trip, the former Hollyoaks actress visited several programmes providing emergency aid for vulnerable families run by CAFOD and our local Caritas aid workers.

Emma visited a mobile nutrition clinic in the Daaba settlement, Isiolo where she met several mothers and malnourished babies receiving life- saving healthcare. 

One of the women she met was single mother-of-4, Pauline who used to have livestock, was able to provide for her family, but now most of her goats are dead.

During this time, Pauline fell ill and had to walk the 15km to the local clinic before the mobile clinic was in operation. It has literally become a lifeline for both her and her family.

Pauline said: “My worst moment was when I had to give my children wild fruit to eat, and ask them to pick the sap from the tree bark to eat. With all our livestock dead, I had no milk or meat for the children.

“My youngest child, Joshua, became sick, and the mobile clinic helped me to stop his bad diarrhoea. The nearest clinic is 15km away; this mobile clinic is a ‘special gift’.”

Pauline and her 3 year old son who have been helped by the mobile clinic set up by Caritas Isiolo

'This mobile clinic is a special gift'. Words from single mother of 4, Pauline and her 3-year-old son who have been helped by the life-saving work of Caritas Isiolo.

With so many people on the brink of starvation, it was vital that your money was used to get food supplies to people in need.  Emma witnessed the innovative way CAFOD’s local partner, Caritas Marsabit, were working to get food 3,000 people using a new system.

Each village sends just one person to collect food; this then gets shared amongst all the village, according to the needs of each family. The food then goes to those who need it most and saves the weakest people from having to queue for hours.

Emma saw the difference such an approach made:

“In Marsabit, the local community, along with Caritas Marsabit, decided on a better way to distribute food aid which didn’t involve queuing, but did involve the participation of the community in their village groups.

“I was blown away by this approach because what might seem a small detail to me or you, meant so much to the women I met; they told me they felt in control, and that their dignity had been restored.”

Emma also visited a programme in the same village where she met community members who worked for half a day in exchange for wages which can be spent on food or other essentials.

The local community appreciate this approach as it enables them to be more self-reliant and restores a sense of dignity to those who have the energy to work.

Abdualiah Abdu takes part in the Cash For Work scheme

57-year-old community elder, Abdualiah Abdu works as part of the cash for work scheme - bringing dignity to those affected by severe drought. 

One of the people Emma met from the scheme, was 57-year-old community elder, Abdualiah Abdu, one of the community elders who said the drought was the worst in his ‘living memory.’

“With our animals, we are rich, they give us milk, meat and fat, but the drought has taken them, and without them our survival is poor”, he said.

"We want to depend on ourselves, not on donors, but without the donors, what would become of us?”

Read more about why we give out cash in emergencies 

“Their dignity had been restored”

Father Stephen Murage, director of Caritas Isiolo, which Emma also visited as part of the trip, said:

“Whether it’s the fourth, fifth, sixth drought, we never give up. We can’t stand by and let people suffer. We must respond. Responding creates hope in people’s hearts. When people see Caritas, they find the strength to carry on, to survive.”

Find out more about our East Africa Crisis Appeal 

Emma urges us to continue to donate and pray for communities affected by drought

Despite all the humanitarian work being done in the region, Emma who is set to star in ITV’s Endeavour this autumn, urged supporters to continue donating and praying for those affected.

Emma said:

“The needs are great. The impact of this drought is not over. CAFOD and the Caritas network are doing invaluable work providing resources which are literally life giving.

“Everyone I met told me they’d thought they’d been forgotten until Caritas arrived. And what I’ve learnt from CAFOD in the field and with its Caritas aid workers, is that the aid they are delivering is more than just aid –  food, clean water, nutrition, healthcare - it gives hope and restores dignity.

“But more still needs to be done. Please continue to donate and to pray – they are much needed.”

Help us respond as soon as there’s a disaster – join our Emergency Response Team scheme 

Back to top