East Africa: The world looks away from a famine
People are starving to death in Africa and the Middle East, yet the world just shrugs, said Damien Roustel in L’Humanité (France). The United Nations called for immediate emergency donations of $4.4 billion last month, warning that 20 million people in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen are at risk from famine and that 1.4 million children are at “imminent risk of death” from severe malnutrition. The U.N. has raised only about one-fifth of the requested funds, mostly for Somalia. South Sudan and Yemen have received very little. Of course, money alone won’t solve these countries’ problems—all four nations are struggling with civil war or violent insurgencies. But money is the beginning of the solution. And right now, the international public has “disaster fatigue.” They’ve spent all their sympathy on Iraq, Syria, and the migrant crisis in Europe—there’s little left for Africa.
In Somalia, it’s a man-made crisis, said Abdifatah Hassan Ali in Somalia’s RadioDalsan.com. I have seen famine victims entering Mogadishu, the children emaciated and barefoot, the mothers weeping. “The river dried, then the trees dried, then the goats started to die...” one woman told me. “Some of our family are already dead.” If our country had a functioning government, it would have had a famine early-warning system in place, so that people at risk during a drought could get help. But since 1991, we’ve had nonstop conflict, and no effective state institutions. “We chose violence over peace, blood over brotherhood.”
Where is the U.S. in this crisis? asked Edward Luce in the Financial Times (U.K.). The world is facing its biggest famine in 70 years, and President Trump “has said nothing.” The $407 million the U.S. has contributed to the relief effort so far was allocated during the Obama administration. No new funds have been requested by Trump, who sees the world as a zero-sum game: Unless the U.S. gets something back for its foreign aid, the money is wasted. But if famine sets in, “the flow of refugees to the West from Africa will dwarf the numbers that have been coming from Syria.” Conditions will be ripe for further radicalization across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. “This cannot be in America’s interests.” Trump wants to slash the budget for foreign aid and diplomacy by 30 percent, and increase the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion. “Spending $1 billion of that on famine relief would achieve more on the ground in Africa for U.S. national security than a dozen new frigates.”
Westerners have grown cynical about aid, said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen in HuffingtonPost.co.uk. But with enough assistance, a country can turn around. The massive, Live Aid–inspired flow of relief to famine-hit Ethiopia in the 1980s helped fund the building of schools and health infrastructure. The result? Ethiopia now weathers drought with relative ease. “The more we help now, the more we build resilience within these countries to stand firmly on their own.” ■