The worst cri­sis you’ve never heard of

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in the Wash­ing­ton Post:

More than 20 mil­lion peo­ple in four coun­tries are at risk of star­va­tion in the com­ing months, in what the United Na­tions has called the worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis since the Sec­ond World War. But the global re­sponse to the emer­gency has been lack­ing, both from govern­ments and from pri­vate cit­i­zens. As of Mon­day, the UN Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs was re­port­ing that only 43 per cent of the $6.27 bil­lion needed to head off famine this year in Ye­men, So­ma­lia, South Su­dan and Nige­ria had been raised.

Ac­counts by the United Na­tions, the U.S. gov­ern­ment and pri­vate aid groups more than back up that claim. More than half the pop­u­la­tions of So­ma­lia and South Su­dan are in need of emer­gency food as­sis­tance, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment. Civil wars in those coun­tries have com­bined with mea­gre spring rains to dras­ti­cally re­duce food sup­plies.

In Nige­ria, some 5 mil­lion peo­ple are at risk in the north­east­ern prov­inces where the ter­ror­ist group Boko Haram is ac­tive.

The most har­row­ing re­ports come from Ye­men, where the United Na­tions says a stag­ger­ing 20 mil­lion peo­ple need hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. In ad­di­tion to mil­lions who lack food, more than 330,000 peo­ple have been af­flicted by a cholera epi­demic since late April, with one per­son dy­ing nearly ev­ery hour on av­er­age. Donors have sup­plied less than 40 per cent of the aid Ye­men needs to pre­vent star­va­tion, and of­fi­cials have re­cently been forced to di­vert some of that as­sis­tance to fight cholera.

With pub­lic aware­ness still lag­ging, one en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ment has been the for­ma­tion by eight large U.S. pri­vate re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tions of an un­prece­dented al­liance, the Global Emer­gency Re­sponse Coali­tion, which on Mon­day launched a two-week fundrais­ing drive. The cam­paign has at­tracted back­ing from sev­eral U.S. cor­po­ra­tions, in­clud­ing Black­rock, Pep­siCo and Google; funds raised will be di­vided equally among the re­lief groups and used for aid in the four coun­tries as well as six of their neigh­bours.

The groups cor­rectly make the point that fur­ther de­lays in aid, whether be­cause of a lack of do­na­tions or bu­reau­cratic slow­ness in dis­tribut­ing them, will trans­late di­rectly into more avoid­able deaths.

“The cri­sis,” says Carolyn Miles, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Save the Chil­dren, “is re­ally reach­ing a peak.”

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