There Are 3 Major Famines on Our Planet Right Now—Can You Even Name Them? The Media Is Virtually Blacking Out Human Tragedy
Millions of people are facing famine and drought in Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, but how many countries are paying attention?
To be an American in the world today is to be a citizen of a country rapidly losing its place as a global leader in foreign aid, foreign assistance and even what we once might have considered the moral high ground. There are crises, it seems, in every corner of the globe, including refugee camps in the center of Paris and immigrant detention centers on our own borders. Our leaders are telling us these crises are impossible to solve diplomatically, complex in nature and beyond the scope of what we can or should handle.
And yet on April 6, Representative Barbara Lee along with ten other representatives, sent a letter to the Committee on Appropriations with a simple request—money for famine relief. Money for food, for people who had none. Specifically, a billion dollars.
The countries they were hoping to assist were places that are geopolitically complex—namely, Yemen, along with South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Famine in these places has its roots in everything from colonialism to climate change to U.S. foreign policy in the region. Specifically in Yemen, the U.S. has supported Saudi Arabia in its brutal campaign to stop ISIS as well as the Houthis, a Shi’ite minority fighting the Saudi-backed Sunni government. Hospitals, schools, refugee centers—these have all been bombing targets of a campaign quietly supported by both the Obama and Trump administrations. The instability has led to famine across a country that was never food-stable to begin with, leaving families unable to find the food to feed their children. Over 17 million are facing imminent famine without immediate international assistance.
There has been no Congressional approval for our support of the Saudi military campaign in Yemen, no declaration of war and no speech to the American people about the how and the why. While Obama held the Saudis at arms’ length because of the brutal nature of the conflict, hoping to execute at least some type of control, the Trump administration has invited them to the White House, welcomed them with open arms. The administration that has preached America first isolationism is entangling us more deeply in a conflict in a country not even on the radar screens of most voters. And yet, to obtain the funding to ease the repercussions of this campaign requires a lengthy approval process in Congress, clear justification, bipartisan support.
In Somalia, over six million people are currently facing famine and drought. Driven from their homes by political instability, they are swelling refugee camps that are rapidly running out of food and water. The governments’ ongoing battle with the al-Qaeda associated terrorist organization al-Shabab has spread to the farms and villages of ordinary Somalis, splitting families apart and forcing people to leave behind their livestock and livelihood as they flee the conflict. The roots of al-Shabab’s rise are complex lie in the political instability created decades ago, when the U.S. and Soviet Union used Somalia to fight its proxy wars. In the decades since, the U.S. has invaded Somalia again and again, in covert military operations requiring no Congressional approval or declaration of war. The fractured country was fertile ground for the training camps of al-Shabab’s parent organization. And yet, to find the funding to ease this imminent famine, another byproduct of the constant onslaught of foreign intervention and instability, is somehow almost insurmountable.
In South Sudan, whose split from the northern part of the country was supported by many across the West, famine has returned with a vengeance to the men, women and children caught between warring tribes vying for the presidency. Our support for this initial break was largely political, driven by pressure from powerful Christian lobby groups on Congress and the Obama administration, yet it was interference nonetheless. The U.S. chose a side, and hailed the split from the north as some sort of triumph of western inspired democracy; when that fledgling democracy descended almost immediately into bloodshed, we turned our backs. The famine that followed that instability rages on, without foreign aid, support, or attention.