Why do famines keep happening?

Keeping Faith August 4, 2011

Josette Sheeran Visits Horn Of Africa

Tuesday I saw starving Somali children on the news, almost too hard to watch.

Wednesday night the One Campaign sponsored a conversation by phone on the drought in Africa. Honestly it was encouraging to hear from people

Josette Sheeran from the United Nations World Food Programme comes on the phone. She remembers the famine in Ethiopia of 1984. “It was preventable,” she says. It’s what drew her into humanitarian work.

Why do famines keep happening? Isn’t the Horn of Africa a black hole for international aid? Do any of the aid dollars make a difference? How can we help the children?

Droughts may not be preventable but famines are. Kenya and Uganda are proving more resilient to the drought than Somalia. Why?

Famines happen not because there is no food but because people lack access to food. A third of the 12 million people that the drought effects have not had to leave home. Governments and agencies saw the drought coming when the fall rains failed and ramped up stocks of food.

International aid has improved roads, so crops get to market and markets grow. Storage gets built. Organizations such as the World Food Programme and Maize Without Borders buy locally. International aid now recognizes 75% of the farmers in these areas are women and targets their agricultural supports at them. Aid is paying off. After all, emergencies cost more.

Somalia proves the point that famine is avoidable. Its failed government prevents humanitarian access. Organizations have supplies of PlumpyNut and other therapeutic foods, but workers can’t get through to the two million people at risk. Somalia lacks roads, storage, and assurance of safety from the government. The world knows about its pirates at sea. It’s a nightmare that has cost aid workers’ lives. Somalis in the United States agonize as they connect by phone with family in the midst of the disaster.

The United Nations has officially declared famine in areas of south Somalia. Famine by definition means 30% of the people are malnourished and 15 people per 10,000 are dying every day. Famine affects children first and worst. Those who live by pasturing animals have lost 80% of their livestock.

The world can rise to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina or the flooding in Pakistan if countries allow humanitarian organizations access. That’s what people on the phone conversation insist. They do the work.

To respond to famine emergency, the United Nations is appealing for $2.2 billion. It has $1 billion so far, half from the U.S.

Your Call to Action:  

Visit the World Food Programme for 10 Ways You Can Help

Do 1 or 2 or all of them.

Then tell me about it in the comment section below.

Has your faith group adopted this as a cause? What creative things are you doing?

Published by GoodGroundPress

Good Ground Press is the publishing ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. We publish resources for living the Gospel today, including Sunday By Sunday for adults and SPIRIT ONLINE for teens.

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