With hunger emergencies ongoing in the Sahel region of Africa, as well as Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other countries, President Barack Obama faces one of his most daunting foreign policy challenges. The President will be making a speech about the global hunger crisis this Friday, May 18, at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington D.C.
Obama's speech will be pivotal in rallying support to fight off famine on multiple fronts. In the Sahel region of Africa massive drought and a conflict in Northern Mali have placed over 16 million people at risk of starvation. The Sahel hunger crisis, which impacts Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and at least five other nations, is expected to peak this summer. Aid agencies are short on funding to meet the challenge. Annie Bodmer-Roy, of Save the Children, posted on Twitter today about the tragedy aid workers are witnessing in Niger: "Hear[t]breaking news this aft: 7mnth-old boy I met yesterday, badly malnourished, did not make it through the day. We need to stop this."
Between 60,000 and 70,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Northern Mali have arrived in Mauritania. Doctors at this clinic run by Medicins sans Frontieres said that children often arrive at the M'bera refugee camp in Mauritania suffering from malnutrition. (WFP/Justin Smith)
While some refugees were able to bring a few animals with them, most of the camp's inhabitants were forced to leave their livestock at home in Mali. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)
The UN World Food Programme's director Ertharin Cousin and UNHCR director Antonio Guterres said in a joint statement, "The window of opportunity to save lives is narrowing by the day. Today we appeal to the international community on behalf of the most vulnerable people in Niger and Sahelian countries. The time to act is now."
The Sahel though is not the only area in crisis. East Africa is still recovering from last year's drought and famine.
In Sudan, as conflict escalates so does hunger. Farmers have been forced away from their land. Drought also has hit, leveling another blow at food production. As peace efforts go forward by the U.S. and allies, so too must humanitarian aid to the displaced. There must be a special effort to provide food for malnourished children under five years of age, as well as feeding programs for school age children.