One week after the South Sudanese government and U.N. declared a state of famine in South Sudan, there are reports of Sudanese people eating water lilies to stay alive, according to a Feb. 28 Al Jazeera article.
Unfortunately, the famine in South Sudan should not be surprising.
More than a month ago, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network stated Jan. 25, “The combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades.”
South Sudan, Somalia, northern Nigeria and Yemen are all facing acute famine issues with more than 20 million people facing starvation in the next six months and nearly 1.4 million children at “imminent risk” of death, according to a Feb. 24 Washington Post article.
The assistance needed to tackle this is seemingly insurmountable. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said the U.N. will need at least $4.4 billion in aid by the end of March to effectively assist those affected by the famines.
That amount of money may seem daunting, but the millions of people who will die without that aid should be of greater concern to world leaders. This is yet another example of why affluent countries need to take on the collective responsibility of protecting the health and safety of endangered nations.
If the global community had taken action sooner, the famines wouldn’t have been preventable but would have been much easier to remedy, according to the Feb. 24 Washington Post article.
Now, more than ever, without outside assistance millions may die because they do not have access to resources like food and clean water.
This is reminiscent of other recent global tragedies, notably the Syrian refugee crisis. Many countries have ignored the crisis or refused to take in refugees, and it has been argued that earlier intervention could have lessened the extent of the crisis.
Another striking similarity is the blend of humanitarian and political motivations of the root cause and solutions to the issue.
The famine in South Sudan is even more concerning than one directly caused by a natural disaster because of claims that the famine is man-made and the result of violent conflicts in the area, according to the Feb. 24 Washington Post article.
Many countries refused to take in refugees because of political objectives, and in the same vein, people suffering in South Sudan and other nations may not only be victims of famine, but of the politics of other nations.
While President Donald Trump’s official proposal for foreign assistance has yet to be released, he has discussed extreme cuts to the aid that the U.S. gives other countries, according to a March 1 Washington Post article.
The U.S. has historically been seen as a world leader, and sending the message to the global community that foreign assistance is not a priority discourages nations from extending their own resources for both preventative and emergency aid.
The U.S. and other countries must realize the importance and benefits of confronting crises early on. It is not in the world’s best interest to work on solutions only when an issue becomes an immediate crisis.