The response to last week’s blog on food waste in America was overwhelming. Colleagues working in the nonprofit sector alerted me to a shocking report just delivered to the United Nations’ Security Council by Stephen O’Brien, the Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs.
“We stand at a critical point in history,” he began. “Already, at the beginning of the year, we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN. Now, more than 20 million people across four countries in Africa face starvation. Without immediate collective and coordinated global efforts, these people will simply starve to death.”
20 MILLION! RIGHT NOW? IN 2017? The number is staggering. Take a second to focus on that number…20 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s more than the population of 47 of the 50 states.
More than 6 million people (more than half the country’s entire population) are about to starve to death. Drought, impending famine, and the presence of terrorist group Al-Shabaab have left the country desperate. “People are dying of hunger, and there is no water,” said Mogadishu resident Noor Ibrahim. “Al-Shabaab blocks the roads. There is no access for food aid.”
Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire just announced that 110 people have already starved to death marking the beginning of the end for 6 million people.
In South Sudan
More than 7.5 million people are starving in this famine ravaged country. 3.4 million people have been displaced, and more than 1 million children are acutely malnourished. 270,000 children are facing the imminent risk of death.
Two-thirds of the population of 18.8 million people need assistance, and more than 7 million do not know where their next meal will come from. This country depended heavily on imports but hostilities have destroyed its infrastructure. Of the $2.1 billion needed to save over 12 million people from starvation, only 6% has been able to get through.
In the Lake Chad Basin sub-region, severe drought has created a rolling famine that is devastating these agrarian people. In 2011, more than a quarter million people died during a famine. The United Nations says that more than half died before the famine was even declared.
Last week, I was astounded by the amount of food we Americans waste. Now, this week, I learn that 20 million fellow human beings are starving to death in Africa even as I am reporting on the staggering amounts of food we simply throw away. 20 million! Starving right now!
“Let’s not forget that each one of these people is an individual case of extreme suffering,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during his appeal this week. “There is a moral obligation for us all to do everything we can to support these people.”
Emotional knee-jerk responses, even though often well-meaning, have not worked in the past and will not work now. The human-race is losing its way. We must all stop and think deeply about how our individual responses add up to our species collective disregard for one another and the planet we inhabit.