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This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life In Famine-Threatened West Africa

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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.

Description: New York City, Children's Relief Fund, 12/29/1920, Invisible Guest Dinner (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

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.

Description: CRB, American Relief Administration Food Distribution, Poland, CA 1919 (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

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)

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.