Stopping a crisis before it starts

Posted by Alison Carlman on May 30th, 2012

By Shonali Banerjee and Mattie Ressler

Right around this time last year, you might have heard about the famine in the “Horn of Africa.” The Horn of Africa comprises much of northeastern Africa, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. In 2011, incredibly poor rainfall in the Horn and neighboring Kenya and Tanzania lead to small harvests that didn’t produce enough food for the local people. These climate conditions, combined with some man-made political and economic factors, drove the region into famine. The United Nations declares a famine when 20 percent of households face extreme difficulty in finding enough to eat, over 30 percent of people experience acute malnutrition (a life-threatening state), and two nutrition-related deaths occur per day per 100,000 people.

Last year, thousands of GlobalGivers contributed nearly $600,000 to GlobalGiving partner organizations in response to the Horn of Africa famine. People like you provided food, clean water, emergency supplies, and medical services. We have no doubt that your contributions saved countless lives, for which mothers, fathers, and children will be forever grateful. Read our Horn of Africa fund updates for photos and updates about  how those donations were used.

Unfortunately, as we head into the summer months in the northern hemisphere again this year, we’re hearing about struggles in the Sahel.  The Sahel encompasses sections of many countries bordering the famous Sahara desert, stretching like a belt across the widest part of Africa.  Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Senegal are all part of the Sahel–a brutally hot, drought-prone region.

This spring, the Sahel received insufficient rainfall: meaning that there is not enough water to sustain crops, livestock, and people. Although the Sahel often struggles with food insecurity, this year’s circumstances are far worse. Combined with other man-made factors, the Sahel has entered the early stages of what could be a terrible famine.  Sahel droughts endanger over 15 million people throughout various nations. That’s about three times more people than were impacted by the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.  Many humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Association are sounding the alarm about the dangerous circumstances that are already beginning, due to the recent coup d’état in Mali and soaring global food prices.

UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake recently reached out to the international community at large, saying, “we are appealing, all of us, for an end to global indifference we have found so far.  I know there is a certain fatigue… but by acting vigorously and properly now, we can head off future crises.”

We here at GlobalGiving wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Lake and UNICEF’s belief that proactive measures are often better than reactive responses; prevention truly is better than a cure. For example, preparing water sources for 80,000 Ethiopians before a famine costs $900,000 and prevents death and suffering, but trucking water across the desert for 5 months costs $3 million, more than three times as much.

GlobalGiving partners with numerous organizations working to prevent disaster-like humanitarian conditions in the Sahel:

Famines are not high-profile emergencies like recent tsunamis, earthquakes or floods. The widespread concern with this type of humanitarian crisis is that it takes time to develop into a full-blown disaster, meaning that many fail to recognize the severity of the situation until thousands of lives are lost.

We’ve created a Sahel Relief Fund in order to provide support now before the situation becomes a full-blown disaster. It’s our hope that we, as the GlobalGiving community, will respond with our heads now to prevent suffering, rather than waiting for gut-wrenching images to move our hearts only after such suffering has taken place.

Thank you for being such a thoughtful, caring, and generous community. We are so grateful.

 

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