This piece by William Lambers is the latest story on the unfolding famine threat in South Sudan. Stop Hunger Now is urging all it’s friends and supporters to help raise awareness of this unfolding tragedy, and to support the relief efforts though the charity of your choice. Three million of our family at risk of starvation is simply not acceptable.
Oxfam warns about South Sudan crisis
The war between the government and opposition forces has led to major food shortages. The already impoverished nation has been plunged deeper into despair.
Families are becoming increasingly desperate. Without a peace deal, things are likely to get worse. Emma Drew, Head of Humanitarian Programs for Oxfam in South Sudan, says,
What we’re seeing now is families that have spent the past year and a half living on the edge – many have exhausted their food stocks, been displaced from their homes, missed opportunities to plant and farm, and now the economy is showing the strain of a year and a half of conflict.”
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been leading the hunger response. The relief mission is one of the most dangerous in the world with the ongoing violence and lack of security. WFP reports three of its aid workers in South Sudan are missing. The three staff members were traveling to a food distribution on April 1st, but WFP has not been able to contact them since.
WFP has to move food around a conflict-torn country with poor roads. Airlifts are used to bring food to some areas. This is difficult and costly. The mission for South Sudan is already low on funding.
Oxfam is urging governments to step up funding for South Sudan. Most of all a peace deal must be achieved. The violence must stop and humanitarian workers must be allowed safe access. Until this happens, hunger will continue to escalate, leaving South Sudan at risk of famine.
“Without food, all other components of social justice are meaningless.” – Norman Borlaug
An estimated 925 million people in the world are undernourished, meaning they are deprived of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.
We know that poverty, the principal cause of undernourishment, is brought about by conflict, unequal income distribution, lack of resources, harmful economic systems, climate change, and is perpetuated by hunger itself.
The father of the Green Revolution couldn’t be more correct in this pointed assessment.
We will never end hunger by feeding people…but that is where the vision of a world without hunger must begin. Ending hunger has to be the foundation of any plan, process or strategy aimed at achieving social justice.
Once there is food, other issues can be addressed, and definitely should be. But until there is daily bread nothing else matters.
Good News to one who is hungry is not salvation, human rights or even world peace. Good News to one who is hungry is only one word: food.
“The problems we face today, violent conflicts, destruction of nature, poverty, hunger and so on, are human-created problems which can be resolved through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share.” – 14th Dalai Lama
Every major faith tradition agrees that we are one human family. And every major faith tradition understands the necessity of treating each other as we would want to be treated. There’s a lot to be said for just living by the “Golden Rule.”
The Dalai Lama is right. Once we can come to the place where we realize our deep connectedness to one another and the earth that sustains us, we will have taken a giant leap toward healing the brokenness of the world in which we live.
The first Millennium Development Goal is to half between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.00 a day. This MDG target has already been met, but there is still 1.2 billion of our family living in extreme poverty.
Extreme poverty rates continue to fall in every developing region of the world. China leads the way with the extreme poverty rates there dropping from 60 per cent in 1990 to 16 per cent in 2005 and down to 12 per cent in 2010.
Poverty remains widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, although real progress can be seen in Southeast Asia. The drop in extreme poverty rates in Southern Asia has fallen by an average of a percentage point every year. The extreme poverty rate was 51 per cent in 1990. Now, 20 years later it has dropped to 30 per cent.
The extreme poverty rates in sub-Saharan Africa by contrast has fallen only 8 percentage points during the past two decades. In fact, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world that had a steady rise in the number of people living in extreme poverty. In 1990 the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty was 290 million. In 2010 that number had increased to 414 million. This number accounts for more than a third of all the destitute people in the world.
Abject poverty is found in areas where poor health and the lack of education keep people from productive work. These are areas where there is bad governance, corruption and depleted natural resources. Conflict and corruption discourage private investment.
We can continue reducing the proportion of our family living in extreme poverty. But for this to happen the international community must take the next steps in combating poverty at every level.
Today (Easter, April 20, 2014) the United Nations reports that the violence in South Sudan has now displaced almost 1,000,000 people from their homes. That huge displacement is causing hunger to rapidly increase throughout the country as it has since the violence first began escalating in December of last year.
The risk of famine is growing more imminent as time is running out to preposition necessary food before the rains start. Once the rains begin roads become totally impassable. Airlifts then have to be utilized and those are far more expensive. And the WFP mission in South Sudan is already low on funds. Food needs to be prepositioned and in place before the end of May or it will be too late.
This is just the latest in a string of reports that describe the worsening conditions in the world’s newest country. On March 27th, Hilde Johnson, the top UN peacekeeping official in South Sudan, warned of a pending famine for the country. In Johnson’s words,” Famine as it is being defined is likely within 5 months unless humanitarians…get all the food they need into the respective locations before the rains start. The clock is ticking and it’s a race against time.”
Johnson warned, “We think eight to ten hundred thousand people are in a very critical situation.” Even in March as Johnson was warning of famine, reports were already coming in of malnutrition among those being displaced.
Valerie Guarnieri, the World Food Program Regional Director For East and Central Africa wrote, “We are concerned about reports of alarmingly high rates of malnutrition among children at refugee camps in neighboring countries, particularly Ethiopia. While we are working with partners to provide specialized nutritious foods for refugee children, the high levels of malnutrition are a sign that the humanitarian situation in inaccessible regions of South Sudan may be rapidly deteriorating.”
On April 11th UNICEF warned that 50,000 South Sudanese children would starve to death unless immediate action was taken, and the crisis could grow even worse. The UNICEF report stated that over 3.7 million people in South Sudan were suffering from hunger as food supplies had been disrupted by the escalating conflict.
Jonathan Veitch, the UNICEF Representative for South Sudan also warned of children starving. He stated, “Sadly, worse is yet to come. If conflict continues, and farmers miss the planting season, we will see child starvation on a scale never experienced here. If we cannot get more funds and better access to reach malnourished children in South Sudan, tens of thousands of under-fives will die.”
Veitch added, “These are not mere statistic. They are the children for whom South Sudan holds so much potential and promise. We must not fail the children of this new and fragile nation.”
Act now. Go to the Stop Hunger Now website for more information on how to help. Also look at the WFP and UNICEF websites, as well. Immediate action is needed to avert the senseless starvation of tens of thousands of infants and young children.
I’ve touched the shadows of vaporized victims forever etched in stone in Hiroshima.
I’ve experienced the violent death of friends and comrades in the rice paddies of Vietnam.
I’ve witnessed atrocities too repulsive for words in Sierra Leone.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the ugly results of my own nation’s misuse of power in the name of peace as I worked to stop the Second Gulf War.
Over the past four decades, I have seen…I have touched, smelled, tasted, heard and felt violence and the lack of peace in scores of countries and dozens of combat zones around the world.
But, none of that compares to the unbelievably gross and senseless vulgarity of global hunger. Hunger is a four-letter word scrawled in red across our entire planet.
And the reality we need to face is that there will never be peace until we erase this moral outrage.
Peace can never be achieved without justice. And justice demands the cries of the hungry are stilled.
We can end hunger in our lifetime. It’s the first step toward achieving justice in the world. All we have to do is decide is that is what we really want. I’m not convinced it is.
Ending global hunger in our lifetime is possible. But in order for that vision to become reality we have to embrace a world where governments–all governments–are held responsible for being far more responsive to basic human needs. This is especially true for the governments of developing countries.
Ending hunger in our lifetime also calls for a new understanding of how we deal with our differences. We have to develop an accepted methodology of dealing with nationalistic differences without the rapid and almost immediate rush to violence. Of course, the same holds true for our religious and ethnic conflicts, as well.
We simply cannot continue to promote violence as the preferred method of dealing with differences. We will never achieve a world without hunger while we remain continuously at war.
Conflict and hunger are handmaidens. Ending hunger in our lifetime requires that we work for peaceful resolutions to conflict at every level, but this is especially true in those regions of the world where hunger holds the greatest number of our family hostage.
The words of President Dwight Eisenhower come to mind:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.
This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.