This Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones. It’s also a time when people can rally to save the lives of millions of people threatened by starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.
A severe drought has ruined food supplies in this part of West Africa, which includes Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and five other countries. Conflict in Mali has created a refugee crisis; small children have already starved to death as a result of the food shortages. Aid agencies do not have enough resources to defeat the famine.
West Africa Faces Food Crisis (Australian Broadcasting Corporation video)
How can someone help? Do exactly what General John J. Pershing did after World War I. That war, in which he commanded American forces, produced a massive food shortage that threatened millions with starvation in Europe and other areas. Pershing co-hosted a fundraising dinner along with Herbert Hoover who ran American relief efforts during and after the war.
A chair was placed at the table signifying an “invisible guest,” one of the hungry and suffering. Funds were collected at the dinners through the cost of the plate and also additional contributions. The money funded the work of the American Relief Administration overseas, the agency that led the fight against the other enemy of the World War I- Hunger.
Today, Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people to have their own “invisible guest” event. If it leads to a donation of even the cost of one Memorial Day cookout meal, it can save a life.
The director of the UN World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, says, “Time is not on our side. If no new food or cash contributions are received immediately, the resulting inability to pre-position and distribute enough food at the peak of the lean season, from June to September, would be catastrophic for the most vulnerable, food insecure people – especially women and children.”
Children being screened for their nutrition status at a supplementary feeding centre in Mauritania. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)
The UN World Food Programme has started a relief fund where people can donate to the Sahel relief effort. Save the Children also has its own Sahel relief fund. Both offer great opportunities to feed an “invisible guest” this Memorial Day.
If the donations come in, children will be saved from starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.(WFP/Rein Skullerud)