Last week marks two years since the current conflict in Yemen began, a war that has destroyed the economic and social fabric of the country. According to the government, the GDP shrunk nearly 35 per cent when fighting erupted. Infrastructure collapsed. Public institutions continue to struggle to provide even basic services.
"Famine" is a word that's rarely and cautiously used by the international aid community. It's reserved for describing the very gravest of human suffering. For the U.N. to declare "famine," a great many people must be dying of starvation. Hunger, even lots of it, isn't enough for an official declaration.
Ten years ago, World Vision started working with people in Humbo, Ethiopia, to plant trees. The organization funded the project by selling 'carbon offsets' for the roughly 22,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide that those trees mop up each year. Before planting began, the region's mountainous terrain had been severely degraded.
It has become clear that climate change will disproportionately impact the world's most vulnerable because they are heavily dependent on resources that will be affected by climatic change. Whether by virtue of socio-economic status, conflict, gender or geography, certain groups are more liable than others to be negatively impacted by climate change, which directly implicates the question of human rights. How will this differentially influence people's lives, living conditions and livelihoods, and who are the most vulnerable?
Massive military egos, political conniving, and Western dilly-dallying have resulted in a potent brew. And now has come famine on a vast scale, in what the United Nations has described as perhaps the worst humanitarian disaster of this recent era. Two million people are now on the move, displaced by conflict and lack of resources.
By abandoning the UN Desertification Convention, as well as other important international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, Canada is sending the wrong message to the world community. We're saying that exporting resources like oil and timber matter more to us than contributing to dialogue and partnership on global issues.
I saw two young men wearing red t-shirts with the letters "CCCP" emblazoned in yellow across their chests. They thought it was cool. The scope of the Soviet regime's atrocities should be widely known among both young and old. The fact that it is not widely known is a sad indictment of our educational systems.
Journalists predicted that the rains would come in October, implying that this would end the crisis. But by then, the planting season will have passed. The rains, if they come, will likely bring flooding and disease. The famine may peak in early December, as we are preparing to celebrate our winter holidays.
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.
Since appeals first went out for donations to the east African famine, relief agencies have reported that approximately $16 million has come in from Canada. The figure for Britain, however, stands at £45 million in public donations. Why? It is our lack of organizational ability to combine our efforts that fails.