First Person

Scarlett Johansson helps fight famine in East Africa

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Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson talks to Paulina Natir, Turkana, Northern Kenya. Photo: Andy Hall/Oxfam

Right now, Oxfam is providing water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities to more than 45,000 people in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp—the largest in the world, and home to tens of thousands of Somali refugees fleeing famine in their home country. More people stream in to the camp each week, seeking refuge from other overcrowded camps and the unsafe areas on the camp’s outskirts.

“The scale of poverty in Dadaab is overwhelming,” said Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson, who visited the camp with Oxfam and is documenting her experiences for CNN and the Huffington Post. “I met countless women like Hawa, a local community leader, who lamented the seemingly endless struggle of the Somali people, as refugees of war and starvation and now left to suffer everyday life with the very barest of essentials.”

Johansson also visited the Turkana region of northern Kenya, where herding communities suffer from chronic droughts that have destroyed their lives and livelihoods. One herder, Sabina Loliyak, told an Oxfam staffer: “If there is no water, then there is no life.” A mother of young children, Loliyak lost half of her animals to the current drought and struggled to feed her kids. “We used to get nutritious food drinking milk and eating meat from [our] livestock, but right now there is nothing. Even the trees have dried up.” 

Sabina Loliyak, left, with her daughter. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam
Sabina Loliyak, left, with her daughter. Photo: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam

In Turkana, Oxfam is scaling up our cash and food-transfer programs to support more than 250,000 people. For Loliyak, participation in an emergency cash transfer program means she can purchase more nutritious food for her children, as well as possibly make the transition from herder to small business owner. “If we can start a business, then our life will change automatically,” she said. “Cash will help us to start a new life.”

Maybe it’s that kind of determination to create a better future—even in a time of crisis—that motivates Johansson, Halima Hussein, and countless others to do their part.

 Oxfam aims to reach more than 3 million people  throughout East Africa with a variety of support, including food aid, clean water, and veterinary care for animals. We are drilling and repairing wells and distributing fuel vouchers to ensure that pumps on the wells can keep operating—even if people have no money. We are also campaigning to change the root causes of this crisis. Find out how you can support our efforts. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+