Guest Commentary Opinion

Guest column: Famine crises require international response

There is ongoing attention toward issues in the United States such as racial injustice, immigration, health care reform and climate change. But there is little attention given toward what the United Nations says is the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II: More than 20 million people in four countries — Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen — are at risk of famine.

The U.N. warned as many as 1.4 million children could die of starvation in the coming months. Humanitarian needs are rapidly increasing and surpassing the available resources.

It is true that the U.S. is facing its own issues, but it does play a role in this crisis.

Congress pledged $1 billion in relief funds, but due to the failure to fill key positions, aid officials said getting money is a slow process.

These funds are vital to the U.N. as it distributes money to programs for food aid. Refugee camps are overflowing with new refugees each day. They travel many miles in hope to find food and water. Aid agencies are faced with many obstacles to deliver food. Circumstances reach from terrorist attacks to interference by local and Western governments.

For example, the U.S. recently sealed a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia for war in Yemen. These funds are negatively impacting innocent human lives. The war in Yemen is destroying the various seaports for incoming food.

The drought in Somalia is fueling severe diseases and death of livestock. It is not the first time the country has experienced a drought, but it is the most severe in its history. There has been some progress in Somalia with food deliveries, yet six million people are expected to bear food insecurity.

In South Sudan, people have fled their homes due to violence. Many are incapable of planting crops, which has led to fewer harvests. Food prices continuously rise at markets due to the scarce amount of food. And the instability of reliable food is causing starvation.

According to the U.N., food security in Kenya has deteriorated within the past year, affecting 3.4 million people. A famine will hinder the progression of sustainability, including the obliteration of livestock, which is a contribution to Kenya’s economy.

The days for sweeping this issue under the rug are over. It is time to shine light on this humanitarian crisis.

The question then arises whether famines are man-made. Droughts may start a famine, but the continuous cause of a famine is government neglect. This could be from not caring or bungling famine-aid programs. Governments should work to alleviate what could potentially become a famine.

All humans are entitled to basic needs such as food and water. It is unbearable to know there is enough food in this world to distribute, yet these countries are still at risk of a famine.

A famine reverses economic development and education, which are crucial to the progression of this world. The severity of malnutrition has caused individuals, especially children, to suffer from weakened immune systems. Diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and measles are increasing death rates.

These countries have called for international support. We must raise awareness, engage in assistance, provide funds and plan famine prevention and drought response plans. To collectively learn from this catastrophe, we must analyze the roots that led to this humanitarian crisis. I envision peace within nations coming together to agree that basic needs for all humans are a necessity.

My call is to stop this crisis. Greed does not coexist with resilience. The International Humanitarian Law demands protection for all persons who are not participating in hostilities. Let’s turn toward human security and focus on healing our world — act locally and think globally.

Guest columnist Shanquela Williams is a social work graduate student. She can be reached at [email protected].

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