As you had better be aware, there is a severe famine in the Horn of Africa right now. Somalia is not the only country suffering, but it is the worst. International response and relief efforts have been tremendous – thank you all – but not enough. Millions are still dying. Most of them are children.
Last night ONE hosted a conference call discussing the current situation regarding the famine and particularly Somalia. It was brilliant and absolutely wonderful. If you missed it, check out their blog (http://www.one.org/). It was very informative and insightful – I am not just saying that so I sound like less of a dork for taking notes throughout the entire bit. There were many key issues addressed during the conference call, but I only want to focus on a couple here, particularly those relating to the title of the post.
The famine has hit both Somalia and Kenya, but in Somalia it is far more devastating. Why is this? The same natural problems hit both – droughts do not believe in political boundaries – and yet famine is far worse on one side of the border. The answer lies in manmade problems and solutions. There are early warning systems and safety nets put in place, which have greatly lowered the amount of suffering, but also show that such extreme famine is not necessary. Drought may be unavoidable, but famine itself is. Somalia’s infrastructure, from government to roads, was dismal before the drought hit. Now, with aid workers blocked off, tragedy only compounds. This is not a domino effect – each additional problem was, and is, preventable.
This is what I mean by “suffering is optional.” As I have explained in previous posts, this quote means bad things happen but you do not have to let them get worse. So here, the drought was inevitable, and yes, human suffering too. But the famine we see now, with mothers having to abandon children at the side of the road so that just maybe another child will make it, no that is not inevitable. This extreme suffering is avoidable because it was caused by people. To quote a speaker from last night, “We know how to address this issue,” Kenya is proof. So those who think the famine in Somalia was unavoidable and is hopeless, think again.
I would like to leave you now with my favourite quote from last night, and hopefully some more fuel for thought. Merci beaucoup for your time and consideration, and a great many thanks to ONE for their efforts.
It cannot be about politics of any kind; it is a life or death situation.