By Frank Vogl
More than 20 million people in Africa face death by starvation, but America is turning its back.
In a heated set of exchanges in a U.S. Senate hearing, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended the Trump Administration’s plan to cut U.S. foreign aid by 29% and U.S. support for humanitarian programs at the United Nations.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham demanded to know how the U.S. could demonstrate leadership and yet go ahead with the draconian cuts given many pressing overseas crises, especially the African catastrophe. Tillerson responded at one point by declaring that there are no easy choices. Then he added, “other countries must do more.”
The new face of American global leadership
When pressed further by other senators to explain how the Trump Administration can be a diplomatic power while massively reducing the State Department’s budget, Tillerson declared, without elaboration: “Our budget will never determine our ability to be effective,” he said. “Our people will.”
It comes as David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, says: “We are facing the worst human crisis since World War Two.”
Mr. Beasley adds: “We are looking at 600,000 children dying in the next six months and double that number in the next year.”
José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, puts it simply in noting our challenge “is to save lives.”
These men speak with authority and run two of the largest international human relief agencies. You might think that what they have to say, especially now, would have an impact. But they are, in fact, far off to the sidelines in international power politics today.
Unless their voices can capture the imagination of the world’s leaders at the center of the stage very soon, then Beasley’s desperate warning will be a reality.
World leaders must lead
The Summit of the Group of 20 world leaders takes place in Hamburg on July 7 and 8. Right now the rapidly unfolding crisis in Africa is unlikely to receive more than a paragraph of generalities in a long final communiqué.
President Trump, President Macron, Prime Minister May, President Putin and their other G20 colleagues are all so consumed with their own domestic politics that they are guilty of neglecting millions of desperate people who are the victims of man-made crises.
I have written before about the prospect of 20 million deaths in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan due to starvation that results from the combination of grand corruption and extreme violence.
The latest analysis from the United Nations suggests that 20 million might be a low figure. 2017 will be terrible; 2018 may be worse.
This is not just a crisis of starvation, it is also a crisis of migration. Millions of Africans are striving to flee from the war-zones and the crush of hunger. As the crises develop, so the number of migrants multiplies.
“There is a direct correlation between conflict and food insecurity – the greater the food insecurity, so the greater the pressure to migrate,” says David Beasley.
The strongest and the most daring migrants find their way to North Africa and to Turkey and to boats that they hope can carry them to Europe. The numbers will continue to multiply and as they do, so European leaders will have to find practical responses.
Mr. da Silva says that Africa has enough food, but storage and transportation are crucial problem areas. Food production in about 13 African countries is far from adequate.
Resolving the immediate crisis demands that farmers get sufficient seeds to plant and that they find support to protect their livestock – ensuring that murderous gangs do not steal and kill the animals and that vaccines are available to prevent disease.
About 8 out of 10 people who are now most vulnerable are in rural areas and if they are to have any hope, then they must be able to continue to produce food for themselves. Urgent humanitarian relief is important, but not sufficient.
Both the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization lack sufficient funds to meet the rising urgent demands.
Mr. da Silva acknowledges that corruption and war are the real villains, but he stresses, speaking for the international community’s response: “We dare not come late – yes, we need peace, but we cannot wait for peace to take place. The people need support now.”
So, why is the international response far from adequate right now?
Will the G20 wake up?
Beasley and da Silva head agencies that have outstanding experience and skills – and employees of great courage who are operating in the midst of war zones – and they need cash urgently. So too do many not-for-profit humanitarian relief organizations.
But I do not think this suffices. The G20 can muster the power and the authority to try and intervene – at least in Yemen and in South Sudan – to press for peace. At a minimum they need to call for a break in hostilities sufficient to address the immediate starvation and health crises in these countries.
The urgency of the situation must be better understood – and much more prominently reported in the world’s media. Just consider these facts from a June 5 analysis by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organizations:
• 5.2 million people will face acute severe food insecurity in northeastern Nigeria (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States) during the next lean season – immediate intervention is required to assist these populations.
• Somalia – Over half of the country’s population – 6.7 million people – are now acutely food insecure, half a million more than in February 2017.
• With an estimated 17 million people in Emergency or Crisis levels of food insecurity, Yemen is currently facing one of the worst hunger crises in the world. After two years of deadly civil war, more than two-thirds of the population are struggling to feed themselves and urgently require life- and livelihood-saving assistance.
• Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan, where 90 000 people are affected, and more than 5.5 million people will not have any reliable source of food by July.
A MAN- MADE CRISIS
A version of the following article was first published on April 28, 2017, by theglobalist.com
Whenever there are very high levels of corruption, there are high levels of violence. In extreme cases, such as in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Yemen, right now this means prevailing conditions of war without any near-term prospect of peace.
According to Transparency International and the Vision for Humanity Foundation, publisher of the annual Global Peace Index, these countries are among the most corrupt and most violent in the world.
International community’s indifference
The World Bank and the United Nations are striving to find ways to relieve the evolving African starvation tragedy. The Bank’s chief executive officer, Kristaline Georgieva, told me that the two institutions are going to be working together to try and find ways to rescue those who are facing famine.
The Bank will be providing a special $1.8 billion grant program for this purpose, she said.
The international community as well as the most powerful Western nations have not only failed to act to bring stability with justice to countries plagued by corruption and violence, but not even made it a priority. And the challenge right now is enormous.
In Nigeria, the current intense threat is due to the chaos and insecurity created by Boko Harom.
Boko Haram is a terrorist organization that built its strength as a direct result of the sprawling government and military corruption that embedded mass poverty with vast youth unemployment in Northern Nigeria.
Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia
In Yemen, an intense civil war since 2015, plus ceaseless bombing by Saudi Arabia, is making it exceptionally difficult to bring vital food aid to most of the population. Even though food aid is getting through to many people, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network reports:
Yemen continues to face the largest food security emergency in the world, with large populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, the latter of which is associated with an increased risk of excess mortality.
In South Sudan, the situation is no better and possibly worse. A recent story in The Washington Post stated that a reporter found more than 70 checkpoints on the road in South Sudan between the town of Juba and Unity state:
Soldiers would often demand bribes or food from aid workers and the government refuses to let the United Nations operate flights that could drop food supplies over at-risk areas.
Somalia is in every respect a failed state, with the country under the rule of warlords and home to the El Shabah terrorist group, that, like Boko Haram, is terrorizing the population.
Time to address the refugee crisis
The leaders of the West have not put the plight of the 20 million Africans at the front of their international priorities. This is a man-made crisis, not a natural disaster.
f relief efforts could be mobilized on a major scale, then millions of lives could be saved.
et, this poses profound difficulties for Western governments, especially those in Europe, who are already struggling to absorb refugees from Syria and from sub-Saharan Africa.
These refugees are people, who in their desperation, as they flee from the violence and economic hardship in their countries, strive to travel great distances to reach the Mediterranean. They then risk their lives as they take small boats to reach Europe.
he challenges now emerging so starkly may continue for years to come and force Western nations to recognize that they must forge comprehensive long-term strategies to aid Africa’s migrants and those in Africa where politics is creating corruption and violence that leaves millions of dead in its path.
If European governments fail to address the core problems, then the number of refugees seeking to enter Europe from Africa will become a tidal wave.
African Union needs to step up
President Trump has not talked or even tweeted about Africa. is Administration is determined to block refugees from entering the country. is budget proposals to the U.S. Congress call for arge cuts both in U.S. foreign aid and in support of the U.N.’s humanitarian work. There could not be a worse signal of Western indifference.
An increasing number of non-governmental organizations across the globe are striving to play a constructive role in this crisis, but the violence that abounds is so great that their opportunities to help are limited.
The African Union should come to the rescue and establish a military force sufficient to ensure that food aid is delivered to save many of those who are now acutely at risk.
ut, it has neither volunteered to take the lead, nor been pressed hard enough to do so by African governments or Western governments.
More generally, the issue of the intense connection between corruption and violence fails to secure the attention it deserves.
The corruption-violence combination
Too many people in government, multilateral organizations like the U.N. and World Bank, and in academia live in their silos, focusing on corruption or on violence, but not on both at the same time.
iolence comes in many forms, from the horrors of war that we see in Yemen and South Sudan, to far-reaching human rights abuses that are a constant feature under authoritarian and highly corrupt regimes.
The U.S. Government has paid a huge cost for this failure in terms of the deaths of soldiers and in cash in Iraq and Afghanistan (for example, a large part of the $110 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan ver the last dozen years is not fully accounted for).
Both countries received massive U.S. economic and military aid. In both countries, the level of corruption increased, as did the violence, and hey combined o add o instability hile undermining he U.S.’s security objectives.
Please learn more about this crisis and share the information with your friends so that public awareness rises and action follows. Here are some links to more information -
"By the time a famine is declared, it’s already too late: People are dying, paying the price of the world’s inaction. For months, aid workers warned of impending disaster in South Sudan. Now the crisis has spread across East Africa and beyond, with over 30 million facing starvation in countries gripped by conflict and drought. The International Rescue Committee is fighting against the clock to save lives."