To Apple, Facebook and
Microsoft: Please Feed Africa

A Mother Jones article entitled “Millions Are Starving in the Horn of Africa, but Nobody’s Talking About It,” discusses the famine in Somalia and surrounding countries. It’s dubbed by the UN the “worst humanitarian disaster” in the world, and that no one’s paying attention to it. The problem with this? The article is dated September 2, 2011.

Fast forward 6 years to a Washington Post article from June 25th of this year: “No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II,” warning of the looming famine in Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria again called “the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.” But once again, no one’s reporting it, talking about it, or giving much aid.

There’s certainly no lull in the news cycles right now, with panic in the U.S. over the chaos in the White House and near-constant fears of health care repeal. But the lack of attention to the impending faminefrom Western media and as well as governments — is making it very hard to get food aid to those in desperate need. Stephen O’Brien, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Guardian in March that over $4.4b was needed by July “to avert a catastrophe.” As of the end of June, only 39% of that total goal had been donated.

Eight of the largest U.S.-based international relief organizations teamed up recently to create the Global Emergency Response Coalition, with a joint fundraising appeal called the Hunger Relief Fund. The PepsiCo Foundation and global asset manager Blackrock have also each pledged a $1 million match toward the Relief Fund.

That $2 million, however, is just a drop in the ocean of enormous need.

Response from other corporations has been shockingly meek. The Global Emergency Response Coalition has a list of the major companies that have partnered with it, but that list is tiny. It amounts to just the following:

  • BlackRock
  • PepsiCo/PepsiCo Foundation
  • Visa
  • Google
  • PMX Agency
  • Porter Novelli
  • Twitter
  • Proctor & Gamble (has provided water purification packets to “key African countries,” with plans to expand that distribution)

No other donors could be immediately found. Given the fact that corporations like to broadcast their humanitarian efforts and community giving, it’s unlikely we’ve missed much. Nothing from Facebook. Nothing from Apple or Microsoft. Though the Coca-Cola Company did donate $1.4 million for hunger relief in Africa in 2011, this year it remains silent. So much for buying the world a Coke.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition is also tackling the need to inform the public on the urgency of the situation, with infographics on its site and frequent updates on their social media accounts. But the general lack of media attention isn’t bringing enough people to their site where they could even see those infographics (!)

Bottom line: More media coverage is needed to help more people know and care — to then put more pressure on corporations and governments to give more.

From the Global Emergency Response Coalition’s FAQ page: “In 2011, during a similar multi-country food shortage crisis, the international community failed to act in time and 258,000 people died in Somalia alone. More than half were children. We cannot let this happen again.”

Folks, it’s happening.

by Paige McGlauflin (Washington, DC)

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