UN seeks $1 billion to feed Sahel
Syrian crisis is distracting attention from 11 million people at risk in Africa’s desolate arid zone, the UN says.
From Reuters in Toronto Star, July 4, 2013
DAKAR—The United Nations appealed on Wednesday for more than $1 billion to help feed 11 million people at risk across Africa’s arid Sahel belt, warning that the crisis in Syria was distracting donors from the Sahel humanitarian situation.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said this year’s war in northern Mali, in which a French-led military campaign destroyed an Islamist enclave, had worsened annual food shortages across the region.
Some 175,000 Malian refugees are camped in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, placing strain on scant food supplies. Another 353,000 people are displaced within Mali itself, having abandoned their homes and livelihoods.
Robert Piper, the UN regional humanitarian co-ordinator for the Sahel, said donor governments had provided only $607 million from an estimated $1.7 billion needed this year to help people at risk of hunger and malnutrition across the desolate region, which runs east to west across Africa.
“Humanitarian funding is also under huge pressure now because of Syria. The amount of money required for Syria is off the chart,” Piper said, noting that $4 billion from a global UN humanitarian appeal of $9 billion was earmarked for Syria.
The conflict in Syria has killed 100,000 people and, according to the UN, driven 1.7 million more to seek sanctuary outside the country.
In our towns and cities, we have food banks to feed the hungry, supported by both business and private individuals and families, churches and supportive charities. The hungry are right before our eyes, and their numbers are growing, as both unemployment and the costs to purchase food and other essentials continue to rise rapidly. These hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who face extreme food shortages are a headline in a newspaper, a photo-clip on a television newscast, and an occasionaly water-cooler conversation that might go something like this:
"There are so many people who are starving in the world, I wonder what can be done about their plight?"
"Yeah, sometimes I think our governments should remember that 'charity begins at home'....."
As both individuals wander back to their work stations, without another thought about the issue...
As George Carlin says, "We have wars against any problem we see, because there is money in it for us....but there is no money in fighting poverty!"
As Chris Hedges reminds us, in his most recent book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Defeat" we have only choices, given the enmeshment of our governments and the corporations, either we will be rebels and activists or we can be slaves to the system that is generating so much wealth for a few and so much hunger, starvation, poverty, abuse and denigration for so many.
The world, at least the western world, has not yet grasped the glaring dichotomy that Hedges puts before us, and headlines like this one, and many others, linked as they so often are to military conflict and the resulting casualties, are unlikely to move either western governments or individuals or certainly corporations to ante up to help feed those without food.
It is not that the world does not produce enough food, so far at least, it is rather that the notion of each of us is our "brother's keeper" has become so tarnished with the "nanny state" political rhetoric that these issues are being left primarily to the non-profit sector. And while the numbers of non-profits are growing significantly, without government and corporate "heavy money" being shovelled into the cause, the hungry will continue to go without food.
However, it is our "out-of-sight-out-of mind" attitude to the people starving in Africa and Asia that helps insulate and isolate us from the full complexities and meaning of the situation. And so, off to work we go, if we still have work, and on the way drive through another coffee shoppe for another mojo to get our day off on the right foot...and so, apparently do those making decisions on behalf of our governments, at least with regard to topping up these funds at the United Nations, whose reputation is also slipping given the rhetoric coming from the right across Europe and North America.