Today marks World Food Day, an opportune moment to highlight the plight of 20 million of our fellow Global Citizens, who right now are estimated to be on the brink of starvation due to protracted conflict and drought in South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia.
Children are always the most affected in crises of this nature and these famines are no exception: even those who survive may be cognitively and physically stunted for life, and without immediate help 1.4 million will not survive the next few months.
The sheer size of these statistics can be hard to fathom. But just imagine walking for hours as a teenager to get water which will last your family just one day like reports in Somalia attest to, or hiding like the South Sudanese families in swamps surviving on water lilies alone having left your homes behind. This is the reality.
In response to the UN’s appeal for urgent famine relief back in March, Global Citizen mobilized a campaign, with particular focus on the US as the world’s single biggest donor of aid, to get leaders to step up and help the millions of people in need.
Over 60,000 of you took action in the months that followed. Including Global Citizens and poverty fighting advocates Pearl Jam who used their social platform to mount the pressure. Global Citizen also worked tirelessly behind the scenes with partner World Vision, impressing upon the Agriculture Committee in Congress on the importance of American leadership in this vital issue.
The US certainly heard our collective call.
In May the US government announced that they would provide $990 million to fight the famine. This bipartisan agreement was successfully spearheaded in the House of Representatives by Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). In September, at our Movement Makers event during Global Citizen Week Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), thanked Global Citizens for their actions which helped secure this strong funding level.
Days later at the Global Citizen Festival New York, Executive Director of the World Food Program, David Beasley, confirmed to the 70,000 strong crowd that $575 million of this funding has been released to the WFP and others to immediately fight the famine. Before exiting the stage, the WFP chief had one message for Global Citizens: “You are making a difference, your voice is being heard. God bless you.”
Next up on the stage was Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who in his role as member of the Appropriations Committee, announced that his colleagues in the Senate have proposed an incredible $311.5 million more in funds for International Disaster Assistance compared to last year to tackle the humanitarian crisis.
“The humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is a byproduct of conflict. It’s entirely man-made. The solution is man-made, too. You are the solution,” Sen. Coons told the crowd at Central Park. “Thanks to your actions, my colleagues in the Senate and I have proposed over $300 million more in funds for International Disaster Assistance.”
Other critical voices of support on the festival stage came via video message from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Corker, following advocacy from Global Citizens in Tennessee, Connie Britton, and Green Day, Corker issued a strong video statement underlining the importance of America’s investments in global food security.
“As the largest single donor, the United-States have been providing substantial resources to address this crisis,” the Senator told the crowd, “Thank you for your tremendous passion and dedication to this issue. It is making a world of difference.”
Yet there is still so much more to be done.
The Chainsmokers made this need patently clear to all watching Global Citizen Festival on Sept 23, issuing a strong call to action to the governments of Ireland, Netherlands and the European Commission to follow America’s lead. With more of you speaking up, hopefully they will. Thank you for all that you have done for your fellow Global Citizens — let’s keep up the heat.