A year ago today famine was declared in the Horn of Africa. The worst drought in 60 years put millions of lives at risk. Canadians stepped up and donated $70 million, which the government matched. One year later, while the famine has been declared over, eight million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia still need emergency assistance.
For months now, all of us at the Humanitarian Coalition have been paying very close attention to the situation in the Sahel region of West Africa, where drought and food shortages are affecting an ever-growing number of families and communities. Today, more than 18.4 million people are facing severe hunger, including a million children who are at risk of acute malnutrition.
Most Westerners see the crisis in the Horn of Africa as a combination of a large population, chronic poverty, and corruption, and they believe that none of this will ever change, so giving money to this self perpetuating crisis is throwing it away. But I offer another narrative that I believe is closer to the truth.
The crisis in East Africa has prompted Canadians to open their wallets and their hearts, but with the sheer number of government agencies, NGOs and private sector organizations responding to humanitarian crises, it remains difficult to know who to support and how much of the money will actually get there.
Those in the Horn of Africa who are in the midst of a famine are facing hunger and malnutrition on a scale few of us can comprehend. Even so, I've been dismayed by web-chatter to the effect of, "How long can we be expected to keep feeding these Africans who don't seem to be able to fend for themselves?"