Many countries all over the world suffer from one sort of calamity to the other. Most Asian nations have to endure strong hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes as a part of their lives while many African nations suffer from extreme drought. The land is devoid of water and humans, animals and crops suffer. Seeing an animal’s dead carcass somewhere out there in the African savannah is no longer an unusual sight. And it’s not just a simple crisis bit has escalated to a famine status.
Famines are serious issues any nation may ever face. It means that outside intervention is too late and things are not just bad but worst. The situation now in East Africa is so depressing with threats of 30 million people facing starvation due to political unrest and severe droughts ravaging the region. The South Sudan famine was declared in February 2017, telling the world that over 100,000 people are dying of thirst and hunger. Other affected nations include north-eastern Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Kenya and even Ethiopia. Add to that the burden of additional refugees that need to be fed makes life in these countries more than just unbearable.
The United Nations has rigorous and rarely met criteria for declaring a famine: 1 in 5 households in an affected area must be severely short of food; more than 30 percent of the population must be malnourished; and at least two starvation-related deaths must occur per day for every 10,000 members of the population. U.N. authorities did not declare a famine zone anywhere in the world after 2011 – until this year. Now there is one in South Sudan, and soon there may be three more – in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. As many as 20 million people may face starvation.
This extraordinary emergency is attracting remarkably little attention, and alarmingly paltry funding. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says $4.4 billion is needed by July to deliver food, water and medicine to afflicted areas, but only 10 percent of that sum has been raised. If Congress allows the drastic cuts in U.S. foreign aid proposed by the Trump administration, the funds necessary to prevent mass starvation almost certainly will not materialize. Last year, the United States provided almost a quarter of the World Food Program’s budget, or about $2 billion.
The food shortage in Somalia, the site of the last U.N. famine declaration six years ago, is in part the result of a drought affecting much of East Africa. Tragically, however, the emergency in the other three countries is entirely man-made. In South Sudan, government forces are impeding the delivery of food to two areas held by rebels, threatening 100,000 people with starvation.
To better understand the significance of a famine, one should first understand what it means. It actually is an evidence-based scientific classification. For instance, a famine due to a food shortage means that at least 30% of the children in that country are malnourished. And the word famine shouldn’t be a part of your daily vocabulary as well since it means that worst comes to worst and that thousands, if not millions of people, are dying.
About 20 million people – the equivalent of nearly the entire population of Australia – is at risk of death in Africa right now as famine ravages Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. It is a frightening story that needs to be told.
What Matt produced was a stunning piece of journalism. Written from Somalia and presented in this beautiful way by our creative teams in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as delivered with an elegance in Saturday’s newspaper, the story had the impact it deserved.
And the situation is far more serious that most of us can ever comprehend. So much poverty, suffering, and death when problems like these can be easily solved if we all unite and help the people from this part of the world. If governments can spend billions of dollars on defense and warfare, can’t we spare a few change to help feed the needy and the hungry in these impoverished areas?
“Somalia is one of four African regions with a food emergency. None of these crises received the attention they deserve. They are difficult places to report on – poor security meant we always travelled with an armed escort.
“In a bid to illustrate the scale of the need I asked many of families that I met to show me the food they had in their houses. I was moved by what I found. When I put that question to Kawsar Muhumed, a 25-year-old mother of three, she pointed to a tatty white sack on the floor of her gloomy dome-shaped humpy and asked me to open it. Inside was half-a-cup of rice. That, and two handfuls of flour, was all she had left. Kawsar told me she and her family were relying on scraps donated by her neighbours to survive.
The scale of this crisis is something many of us haven’t witnessed in our own communities. Severe malnourishment is everywhere and affects both young and old people. Even the animals in the region die from thirst and hunger. You can see their dead carcasses scattered all over the place. Whoever who can see their situation will definitely be moved and get your heart broken just seeing these people barely eating or drinking clean water in their day-to-day.
Things that we take for granted in our modern cities are unheard of from these places. Instead, what you can see is poverty and suffering everywhere. And sadly, some of the reasons for this famine are caused by us humans. Political unrest and conflict prevent government and humanitarian efforts to reach the people who need help the most. Despite the increasing donor funding, humanitarian groups are stretching their resources as four famines are experienced in the region today.
However, donor funding is likewise stretched out all over the globe with the crisis like the Syrian Civil War and other political conflicts in the Middle East needing outside help. It is disheartening to see that these things still happen despite the many advancements in our technology. If we can only set aside our differences, the world will be a much better place to live in and some countries no longer have to struggle if the world’s wealth is distributed everywhere. But that is just wishful thinking and we can only do our best to extend help where it is needed the most.