Sunday, July 24, 2011

Famine in East Africa

A massive humanitarian crisis is currently threatening the lives of 10 million people in East Africa. Famine has already killed tens of thousands – and more people are dying each day. An estimated 2.2 million people have been cut off from emergency aid due to militant control of some areas.

A perfect storm of drought (the worst in 60 years), war, and rising commodity prices (the price of some staples has increased by as much as 240%) has created what is being called the worst hunger emergency in a generation.

In Somalia, there are areas in which more than half the children are severely malnourished and one-in-three could die. As a parent, these kinds of statistics mean more to me than they used to. I can’t imagine watching my daughter die of starvation before my eyes and being unable to feed her. I can’t imagine what that does to someone.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that they need $300 million to prevent the famine from spreading, and another $1.6 billion to sustain essential regional programs. Top priorities are clean water and food, in addition to bore holes for wells and the establishment of feeding centres with medical supplies. The main drought refugee camp in Kenya, a facility designed for 90,000, is overflowing with 400,000 desperately hungry refugees.

But the desperately needed donations are simply not manifesting. There are financial problems in Europe and America, as well as donor fatigue from the recent crises of Haiti, Pakistan, Japan, etc.

The question is, how many people is the world willing to watch die before they start to act? Well, perhaps that’s the problem, they are oceans away from most of us, so we don’t actually have to watch the children who are too weak to cry, the mothers who are unable to nurse their infants, humans and animals turned skeletal by malnourishment.

But societies are crumbling and tens of thousands are dying. At what point do we say enough is enough?

Between July 6 and Sept 16, the Canadian government will match every dollar donated to Canadian charities like the Canadian Red Cross, Oxfam Canada, Doctors without Borders and the Mennonite Central Committee, Word Vision Canada and UNICEF Canada.

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