Raising Our Voices to End Famine Together

By Samantha Flax

August 22, 2017

In a recent article in TIME magazine, author, Liz Schrayer remembers being a teenager in the 1980s and learning about the famine in parts of Africa through the record We Are the World. She recalls the powerful image created by artists like Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Bob Dylan.

I am too young to remember this moment. But I do remember, during my senior year of college, learning about the famine that claimed the lives of nearly one million people and the global response. 

What I realized as I tried to swallow my sandwich was that guilt was not going to get me or the world anywhere. I decided to be inspired instead.

Learning about the famine in class was a powerful moment for me. I felt so horribly privileged to know that I have never been truly hungry while people around the world die from starvation. I felt guilty about my luck, and had trouble eating lunch after class that day. What I realized as I tried to swallow my sandwich was that guilt was not going to get me or the world anywhere. Instead, I decided to be inspired. Inspired by the people around the world in the 1980s, including artists who lent their voice to this critical cause. I became inspired by those activists to join the fight against hunger and famine that families still face today.

Somali Refugees are seen in Malkadiida Refugee Camp, Ethiopia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

As the Time article points out, most Americans–85 percent to be exact—do not know about the 20 million people on the edge of starvation in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. If they knew, as Americans did in the 1980s, and in 2010 after the Earthquake in Haiti, they could be empowered to take action.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition is raising funds and awareness to fight famine.

Fortunately, groups and individuals around the world are stepping up to raise awareness of the four famines. Eight of America’s largest relief organizations have formed the Global Emergency Response Coalition to raise funds and awareness. Businesses are also stepping up to join the fight.

Somali Refugees are seen in Malkadiida Refugee Camp, Ethiopia. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

But, there is much more to do, including raising enough money to combat famine.  Only half of the 6.1 billion dollars requested by the Secretary General of the United Nations has been raised, and these famines are getting worse because of conflict and disease such as with the Cholera outbreak in Yemen and the continued fighting in South Sudan.

As global citizens, we must take action and raise our voices to end famine as those artists did 30 years ago.  I learned many things in my college class when we studied famine. I learned how complicated humanitarian work can be, but I also learned and I still truly believe that there is always value in taking action. These fights are always worth it, and everyone has a role to play in creating a better, healthier, and more sustainable world.

Header photo: UN Photo/Tobin Jones

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