Thoughts about the Horn of Africa situation

International Cooperation Minister, Bev Oda, announced today that the Canadian Government will be matching donations to the Horn of Africa crisis until September 16th. Nearly 4 million people are at risk of starvation due to droughts in this region. While droughts are nothing new to this part of the world, the problem has been exasperated by conflict, neglect and rising food prices.

I’ve been frustrated by how little attention this crisis is receiving in the media. Yes, I know it’s hot outside. Yes, I’m thrilled that we’re still talking about Princess Kate’s wedding dress. Yes, how much money Harry Potter is making is riveting. But there seems to be problem of proportional media coverage given the scale of the famine in the Horn of Africa.

Brain Stewart, who is no stranger to witnessing drought and famine in this region, has provided a great analysis of the situation on the CBC website. Click here to read his article. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are a couple quotes from his article that stood out for me:

“Let’s grasp what’s involved here — lack of funds, lack of attention, lack of public understanding, all of which could soon translate into the absence of relief food, water, medicine and shelter that could make this a humanitarian debacle of the first order.”

“But for now, while waiting for governments everywhere to do their jobs properly, there really is no escaping our own individual responsibility. Is there?”

It’s a complex problem. And I don’t pretend to have the answers. But as complicated and overwhelming and long-term as the problems are, there are a couple simple facts that should cut through the clutter:

  1. People are dying on a massive scale.
  2. I can do something about it right now.

As I write this I have a half-eaten bag of popcorn and a tall glass of water in front of me. I had to reorganize my pantry today because it was too full of food. I’m watching a rerun of Friends, safe and secure in my home (Ross gets less and less funny the more I watch this). My dog has a full bowl of food and clean, fresh water in the corner. And I may jump in the pool in the backyard later to cool off.

I’ve got it good and can afford to help others who aren’t as lucky.

Here are a few organizations with programs in the Horn of Africa:

World Vision Canada

Oxfam Canada

UNICEF Canada

UN World Food Programme

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Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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