19 million people are at risk of starvation throughout Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Yemen. With years of drought causing crops to fail and cattle to die, plus ongoing conflict and a recent cholera outbreak, the situation in East Africa and the Yemen is critical. According to a UN official, it has become the worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen since 1945.
Except we’re not seeing it.
The international community needs to act now to prevent famine and the deaths of millions of people. Yet Trump’s latest tweet and ongoing Brexit negotiation chaos continue to grab the headlines and deprive the East Africa crisis of the awareness it desperately needs. The recent spate of terror attacks throughout Europe have, quite rightly, dominated the headlines. However, we must also make room on the stage for the people of East Africa and the Yemen. In our digital age, when we each individually hold the world in the palm of our hands, the fact that so many people can be left at risk of starvation and disease while the world looks on is scandalous.
According to CAFOD director, Chris Brown, ‘vulnerable people in East Africa are on the brink of starvation and urgently need life-saving assistance.’ International aid charity Save the Children has reported it has already delivered aid to 1.5 million people in Somalia. This is, however, a mere drop in the ocean of malnutrition and disease.
Christian Aid has raised over £2 million during the past six months which it describes as, ‘the tip of the iceberg’. The charity’s regional humanitarian advisor Mboraka Fazal said, ‘In terms of scale and intensity, this is the worst disaster that I have seen in my 20 years as a humanitarian worker and the worst in our generation.’
Famine was declared by the UN in some areas of South Sudan in February. Although this has now been diverted, the World Food Programme says the situation is ‘still critical.’
Cholera outbreaks in Somalialand, which has experienced three years of drought, threaten to kill thousands. The lethal disease is spreading fast, with up to 500 cases reported per day in some areas. Cholera is contracted by drinking unclean water and can be treated and prevented. However, while in the grip of extreme drought, the population of the region have little choice but to drink dirty water.
Conflict across the Yemen has caused millions of people to flee their homes and compete for dwindling resources, with many on the brink of starvation. Cholera has also swept across the area, infecting half a million people according to the World Health Organisation. The country’s infrastructure is cracking under the strain of civil war and air and sea blockades imposed by Saudi Arabia.
Where are the rock stars? Why are there no documentaries flashing heart-breaking images across our TV screens? While it is important to stay abreast of news in the Western World, we cannot ignore the plight of millions of malnourished and sick people in East Africa and the Yemen any longer.
In 2011, the last famine in the region claimed the lives of almost one million people. The world didn’t act fast enough then and, tragically, it seems history is repeating itself.
If you want to help the people of East Africa and the Yemen, here are a few actions you can take:
Many charities are working tirelessly across East Africa and the Yemen to deliver aid where it is needed, but they urgently need more money to be able to reach more people. The Disaster Aid Committee has an East Africa Appeal, which distributes funds among a consortium of charities. According to Save the Children, just £5 could provide a school child with clean water for a month. That’s less than most of us spend on a couple of take-out coffees.
There are so many ways to raise money for charities such as Save the Children, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Unicef and many more who operate in the region. From running to sky-diving or cake sales, there’s something everyone can do to generate funds.
Simply by sharing content from international aid charities across our social media platforms, we can all help spread awareness with the click of the button. It costs nothing and takes seconds but undoubtedly helps save lives.
Until the mainstream media prioritise the crisis, we have to take matters into our own hands to ensure the world hears the cries of millions of desperate people across East Africa and the Yemen.
It’s not too late to prevent wide-scale famine. But it soon will be.