I do not know how to keep something this important, this critical, and this close to my heart encapsulated into a few paragraphs, but I will do my best to do so. Recent new coverage has varied from the war in Syria and Iraq to investigations with Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections to Donald Trump in all his recent legislative tactics. Yet, the “biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II” is on the brink of decimating up to 20 millions lives and there is one article among the thousands.
Why does our news circulate around specific topics while leaving out almost entirely other pressing issues? This is not to say that the issues that receive the most headline time are not newsworthy or that they do not matter. The issues we see in the news are the reflections of US priorities and consumer interests. Fortunately and unfortunately, we live in a wonderful country (despite it many flaws) that allows us amazing opportunity, security, peace, and luxury. Little wonder then that the imminent threat of four famines and wide spread drought plaguing the Sahel region and the East African bloc goes almost entirely unsaid within Western mainstream media.
For the first time in any sort of recent history four simultaneous famines – in Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen— are threatening these vulnerable populations and little help is on the way. Somalia is only six years out from enduring a harsh famine that devastated the affected population and taught the relief community an extremely valuable lesson: water is even more elemental than food. Humans can survive weeks without food, but only five days without water will result in death.
In Somalia’s particular situation, camps are rapidly filling up and creating further disaster and increasing the death toll. These camps have extremely high mortality rates not because of malnutrition per se, but because of disease. With limited or no water, populations resort to acquiring water that is nowhere near suitable for humans to drink. This results in outbreaks of diseases like cholera that quickly spread through flies, fingers, and feces. These camps simply need basic health education on how diseases like cholera spread and access to proper water and hygiene supplies. Simple latrines, clean water, soap, water-treatment tablets, and plastic buckets would save countless lives, yet remain unavailable to the masses.
The United Nations is a major primary source of aid in disaster relief along side the United States. However, President Trump continues to press Congress to cut foreign aid and curb assistance to the UN. This will only lead to an exponential increase in unnecessary deaths. The United Nations is not just short of cash; they lack billions to adequately aid these ailing populations.
Now, one may be tempted to rationalize these crises as being too far out of their influence despite feeling empathy towards those who are suffering. Yet, one of the direct causes of the widespread droughts and looming famines is the result of global pollution. Yet, the countries affected emit practically no carbon emissions. This mass suffering and loss of life is directly correlated with other nations’ constant consumer binges on luxury products that most Somalis or South Sudanese will only dream of owning.
In the past, within certain regions of central Somalia a 20-liter jerry can of water (about five and a half gallons) cost only 4 cents. However, in recent weeks that price has soared to 42 cents. Most of the population in this region who are suffering from the affects of drought lives on less than a dollar a day. Their family wealth of herd animals has been reduced to bones and dust.
Other huge impediments to aid remain within the affected regions themselves. Wars and political cleavages leave vulnerable areas out of reach from need aid and support. Within Somalia, the Baidoa region is one that has swelling camps and increasing deaths. Yet, it is just a few miles outside a town with essential resources. This area, however, is controlled by the Shabab militant Islamist group that has forbidden Western aid agencies from intervening. Many other areas in Somalia, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan suffer from similar or international wars that bar needed aid from saving lives.
This is a harrowing report, one that leaves my heart broken and my mind asking what can I do to help these people who have so little when I have so much. The few simple answers I have are live responsibly, stay alert and informed, and find places where you can make an impact, no matter the size. Recently, Jerome Jarre, a French social media celebrity, began using the hashtags #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia and #LoveArmyForSomalia. His influence on social media had a snowballing affect that got people like Colin Kaepernick and Ben Stiller involved. Kaepernick and others used their influence to then start a movement that ultimately resulted in Turkish Airlines providing a jet to carry donated food and aid to Somalia to relieve the suffering. This is one prime example of the influence we can have as part of a movement for good.
I hope you can find your own ways to give back and helps others in need.
Read the full article here.