On February 22, Action Against Hunger and partners held an event at Westminster in London to mark the one-year anniversary of the UN's Call to Action on famine threats in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. The event aimed to spark a renewed political commitment to responding to and preventing hunger crises.
Action Against Hunger USA’s East Africa Regional Director, Hajir Maalim, spoke of the progress that has already been made and the importance of building upon these foundations. Below are his thoughts on hope, resilience, and the shared desire of humanitarian workers and community members to overcome the challenges of famine.
When hunger crises strike, the existing challenges communities face worsen immeasurably. Parents are forced to sacrifice their own welfare for the sake of their vulnerable children. This could mean borrowing from local traders, begging on the streets, or skipping meals. The results leave them indebted and their children malnourished as their best efforts to provide for their families are not enough to meet their basic needs.
Families get separated as the women and children flee to displaced camps, while the men are either killed or forced to stay behind to defend their homes. Conditions in these countries can nose-dive extremely quickly as diseases spread and malnutrition spirals to critical levels. Aid workers, while responding rapidly to crisis, are frequently overwhelmed by the severity of the situations they face.
Aid workers mostly composed of committed local volunteers, are often risking their lives to deliver support to these vulnerable men, women, and children. From providing medical assistance to cash transfers to enabling affected families to buy food and access education, these workers on the frontline work tirelessly in the looming shadow of hunger and famine.
For the past year, these heroic efforts have managed to stem the threat of hunger and contain the impact of famine. Individuals, families, and communities have been able to get back on their feet, however, a return to their homes is still not feasible as conflict continues.
With limited resources in protracted crises, aid workers are complementing their life-saving interventions with resilience building initiatives which aim to address the needs of the population in the long term.
Despite being deeply affected by these conflicts and hunger crises, hope remains in communities devastated by hunger. Effective local and international responses are ensuring lives are being saved and putting the framework in place to ensure a secure future, free of hunger.