Twenty-six years ago, this month, Bob Geldof organized, galvanized and revolutionized the music industry in a way that barreled news of famine in Africa into the hearts – and living rooms – of more than a billion people around the globe. LIVE AID was a phenomenal feat of tenacity, ego, determination and compassion. It helped.
But it didn’t solve the problem. In fact, the problem repeats itself.
I woke this morning unsure what I felt like having for breakfast. I checked the pantry. Checked the fridge. Chose an apple, put it back. Chose oatmeal. Changed my mind. Poured a second cup of coffee instead. I showered, put special conditioner in my hair – after all, it should be used weekly for bounce and shine. I picked up my iTouch and checked my email, played a couple rounds of Angry Birds. Then I turned on my laptop to see what was going on locally and around the world, to check new status updates and tweets, to see what the weather will be since we’re supposed to hold a yard sale today – selling our overflow to others willing to part with spare change.
And then I saw this image from The London Evening Post:
Famine has once again claimed the the weakest among us. Children. Babies. Animals. The elderly. Parents cannot provide for their families because they themselves have nothing to give. Severe drought has killed crops and livestock, leaving these people with nothing. And then, to compound the horror, militants prevent aid from reaching them.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released this statement about the situation:
Press StatementHillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJuly 20, 2011
The United States is deeply concerned by the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa and today’s announcement by the United Nations that a famine is underway in parts of Somalia. The United States is the largest bilateral donor of emergency assistance to the eastern Horn of Africa. We have already responded with over $431 million in food and non-food emergency assistance this year alone.
But it is not enough — the need is only expected to increase and more must be done by the United States and the international community. That is why today the United States government is providing an additional $28 million in aid for people in Somalia and for Somali refugees in Kenya.
The eastern Horn of Africa is prone to chronic food insecurity which has been exacerbated by a two-year drought. Crops have dried up, livestock have died, and food prices have been skyrocketing. In Somalia, twenty years without a central government and the relentless terrorism by al-Shabaab against its own people has turned an already severe situation into a dire one that is only expected to get worse. Even so, we remain cautiously optimistic that al-Shabaab will permit unimpeded international assistance in famine struck areas.
The United States — in close coordination with the international community — is working to assist more than 11 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, who are in dire need of assistance. To anticipate growing needs, the United States government has worked with our partners over the last year to pre-position food in the region, increase funding for early warning systems, and strengthen non-food assistance in the feeding, health, water and sanitation sectors. In addition to emergency assistance, this administration’s Feed the Future program is working to break the cycle of hunger once and for all by addressing the root causes of hunger and food insecurity through innovative agricultural advances.
But the United States cannot solve the crisis in the Horn alone. All donors in the international community must commit to taking additional steps to tackle both immediate assistance needs and strengthen capacity in the region to respond to future crises.
I don’t know how we can help these people and my heart aches because of it. But I know we can be more appreciative – and respectful – for what we have. We have options. Choices. Farmers markets, supermarkets, organic, non-organic. Gluten-free, low sodium, no trans-fats. Food – meat, vegetables, fruit, snacks – by the pound. It’s all much more expensive than it was not too long ago. But it’s there, convenient, safe and plentiful. The least we can do is take only what we need and give to those we know who don’t have.
I’m not trying to preach to anyone. I’m just trying to feel less guilty for having as much as I do while complaining it’s not enough.