At Christians on the Left we feel it is important to share wider news items and articles that help us to keep looking outwards and informed about what is happening in the world. Our friends at 'All We Can' have sent us a very timely article highlighting the East Africa food crisis.
A critical point in history: East Africa food crisis
By Laura Cook, Communications Manager for All We Can.
“I don’t have food. Maybe tomorrow I will die. Only God knows.” – Amir, South Sudan.
18 year-old Amir cultivated her small plot of land, but the crops were destroyed by a flood and she had no other form of income. She came to a health clinic run by All We Can’s humanitarian aid partner in Bahr el Ghazal, South Sudan, with her severely malnourished baby daughter Achol. Achol is one of the fortunate ones, she reached help in time. She was treated with Plumpy’Nut, a nutrient-rich peanut-based paste that helped her gain weight and receive enough nutrients to survive.
Many thousands more, just like Achol, are literally starving to death because of the lack of access to food. Critical levels of malnutrition and a severe malaria outbreak are putting thousands of lives in jeopardy. Babies, children under the age of five and pregnant and breast-feeding mothers are most at risk.
A regional crisis
On 20 February 2017, South Sudan gained the unwelcome title of being the first nation in six years to declare a famine. Famine is not simply an inadequate food supply; rather it is the inability to access that food. When a region is declared to be in famine it means it has reached the most severe level of a food crisis. No longer is there merely the threat of people dying, but daily deaths as a result of malnutrition are already occurring. That same week, the United Nations issued a stark warning that other countries face extreme food-shortages across the wider region. Ongoing food crises have pushed many East African countries to the brink of catastrophe with millions facing malnutrition, illness and death.
On 10 March 2017, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council, “We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.” All We Can, Methodist Relief and Development, are already responding to this dire situation in South Sudan and Somalia. Working with its international humanitarian aid partners and trusted local partners All We Can will also be responding to the growing crises in Yemen, Burundi and Ethiopia. Malnutrition is widespread, in some countries water is scarce and the need for lifesaving aid; food, water and sanitation, is critical.
All We Can’s Humanitarian Aid Manager Jason Snuggs said of the situation, “There is no longer a question over whether food insecurity will have an impact on people in this region – it already is and with grave consequences. The question now is how many people will die because of this food insecurity? The situation in South Sudan is dire and famine looms in many neighbouring countries. This situation needs immediate action and international support if it is to be addressed.”
The gradual nature of this kind of emergency means that while there is greater scope to intervene, unfortunately history has shown that there is also a greater tendency to be slow to do so. In 2011 over a quarter of a million people died in Somalia in what is often coined ‘the best chronicled descent into mass starvation in history’. We are facing the same kind of situation now, not just in South Sudan but also across many East African nations, including Somalia, Burundi, Ethiopia and neighbouring Yemen.
An urgent need to respond
The United Nations have stated that there is a threat of an unprecedented level of hunger, not only in South Sudan but in a number of other nations as well. Local organisations in countries like Ethiopia, are already stressing the pressure they are under. Long-term development work with communities is severely threatened by this crisis.
The magnitude of need across the region is enormous: In South Sudan alone, 100,000 people are facing famine in the northern-central part of the country and a further 1 million are classified as being on the brink of famine.
There are undoubtedly many pressures in the world right now, but to pay no heed to this food crisis is to risk further tragedy and the scandal of a disaster that could have been prevented. This is why All We Can and the World Church Relationships Team of the Methodist Church in Britain are calling for support for an urgent appeal to respond to immediate needs in South Sudan and to help avert famine in other countries on the verge of disaster. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated in reference to the emergency, “In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference”.
The Methodist Church in Britain is urging people to respond quickly, generously and collectively to this catastrophic situation by supporting the appeal being managed by All We Can.
Give now at www.allwecan.org.uk/famine
All We Can is a pioneering international development, relief and advocacy organisation that believes in the power of partnership. It has its roots in the British Methodist Church and is inspired by Christian principles to focus on those in greatest need. All We Can is not aligned with any party political position and provides its services to people of all faiths and none. You can find out more at www.allwecan.org.uk
Image captions and credits.
[Image1SSudan] Amir’s baby Achol is seen in a health clinic in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Her arm circumference measurement reveals how malnourished she has become. ©Medair/Diana Gorter
[Image 2 Ssudan] Families queue with their malnourished babies waiting to be seen at a health clinic in South Sudan. ©Medair/Albert Gonzalez Farran