JAMES CALEBRESI ’20
As the world continues to reel from the election of Donald Trump, with the media wracking its collective brains on euphemistic backflips and mental locutions, an increasingly dreadful, and horrifyingly real situation continues to evolve in four African countries. According to Stephen O’Brien of the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and parts of North-Eastern Nigeria are suffering from extreme famine and imminent starvation. The situation has developed due to various military conflicts, such as that of Boko Haram, which has led to military blockades and devastating droughts that prevent incoming humanitarian aid and stifle local production. The situation grows increasingly dire as each day passes, with UN official Stephen O’Brien calling this the “largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.” Exacerbating the issue, the general public is still largely unaware of the fact that any efforts by media photographers from various outlets tried to enter the area, but have been stymied by the military forces in control.
One could imagine that the first instinct of leaders around the world would be to ask themselves how they can help immediately to solve this issue, which in recent days has attracted virality online. President Trump’s only recent action seems to hurt the issue, with his recently unveiled Fiscal Budget proposing cuts of the State Department’s aid to foreign countries by 29%, according to the New York Times. A recent Opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof in the same Times rips into Trump’s agenda reminding us that Trump’s aid cuts are specifically detailed to target every country except for Israel. Already remarkably more prosperous than other African-Eastern countries, Israel has been touted as the greatest ally of the United States.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada announced an aid package of $119.25 Million to Nigeria just a few days ago. Hopefully, other leaders will follow Trudeau’s example, although it should be noted that the US and UK are historically strong allies with Saudi Arabia, one of the countries in a military coalition that is blocking ports in Yemen. A relevant article from online British newspaper, The Independent, cites Peter Salisbury, a senior research fellow in the Middle East and North African program at Chatham House, who says, “Arguably the UK has also given political coverage to the Saudis by preventing various resolutions and investigations from happening”, and, “The UK is also a huge arms supplier and provides a great deal of logistical support to Saudi forces.” While the United Kingdom is the fourth largest donor to Yemen, with 103 million Euros donated last year, their aid will amount to nothing for the 14.1 million Yemenis in need if they cannot exert political influence in order to stop the blockade that restricts two thirds of the populace. The US government also has aid set up from former President Obama’s budget, and should look to dump the money it sets aside into this issue at the very least. Again, if President Trump and Prime Minister May do not act soon, along with other leaders of prosperous countries, they will have the specter of millions of lives on their shoulders.
There is a small amount of hope for positive action nationwide against this looming threat thanks to the magic of the internet. Recently, celebrities like Casey Neistat and Ben Stiller created a GoFundMe campaign for food that raised $1 million over ten days. Through various videos and tweets, the group has their money, and plans to send the food they buy over to Somalia via Turkish Airlines, which has agreed to the use of one of their planes for the project. Despite this considerably small gesture by these folks, the UN estimates that 2.1 billion dollars is needed. The fundraiser, however, certainly has done a good deal in raising awareness, if not finances, for the betterment of these African people. One can only hope that President Trump will seize this golden opportunity to help his tanking approval ratings, which just a day or so ago hit a rock bottom of 37 %. This could be the break Trump so desperately needs, the break to prove his viability, to prove that conservatives can get things done without raising taxes, to prove that he can end conflicts rather than start them. As the United Nations official Stephen O’Brien so aptly detailed later on in his report of the situation, “All four countries have one thing in common: conflict. This means we – you – have the possibility to prevent – and end – further misery and suffering. The UN and its partners are ready to scale up. But we need the access and the funds to do more. It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, these famines, and to avert these looming human catastrophes.