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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Struggle the Size of Africa

In 1991, two million Somali citizens faced the struggle for survival. Not only was the government falling apart, but civil war and a severe drought left the land barren and people struggling to grow the food necessary for their survival. Just bordering Somalia, Ethiopia also underwent the worst manifestation of a hungry nation.

Between 1972-74, forty to eighty thousand Ethiopians, mostly in Wollo, are estimated to have died as a result of the famine. The situation was even worse in 1984-85.

Famine is a reoccurring problem across Africa. Today, in Eastern Africa, people are still struggling with hunger and preventable diseases. Drought and famine has become commonplace as a result of corrupt institutions, politically aligned deforestation, environmental degradation, and global warming. Political involvement has taken its toll on the land. From Zimbabwe to Somalia, governments are on the brink of failure, as they can’t provide basic amenities like water, sanitation, and security for their citizens.

In South Africa, violence is spreading in major townships with residents protesting over lack of basic services like water and housing, never mind the Rainbow nation will be hosting millions of tourists in less than a year. The effects of the aforementioned problems can be noted especially in small, rural villages. In the bigger cities, like Nairobi, Kenya, it is now normal to see women, who have walked for miles to collect water at local boreholes, turned away with no water – an essential part of human life.

Famine is a subject that is acknowledged by the masses, but hardly addressed until it becomes a shock. International aid is then relied on to rectify a situation that spiraled out of control as a result of sheer neglect. Obama is right when he says that "Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions".

In a world that has both excess and a severe lack of everything, how is it that we do not know how to proactively address a situation, like famine, before it becomes critical?

And that's the Steifmastertake!