“The Horn of Africa region is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1984, and Ethiopia is caught in the middle,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme.
“Todays figures, terrible as they are, show only half the picture. Over 13.5 million Ethiopians are in need of aid in order to survive. The number of those suffering severe hunger and destitution has spiraled. More can and must be done now to save lives and avert disaster,” said Oxfam’s country director, Waleed Rauf.
Over the past few weeks the World Food Programme and other aid organizations have started asking countries for $460 million for emergency food aid for Ethiopia. Emergency food aid is nothing new to Ethiopia. In fact, every year there are millions of people in imminent risk of death from starvation. Food aid is sent in the form of staple grains – rice, wheat, corn – to give them just enough to survive another year.
How should we respond to crisis situations like these? As I see it there are three ways that people will usually respond:
1. Ignore it and it will go away.
This seems to be the way that most respond. We tell ourselves that since we aren’t aware of the problem we aren’t accountable to help. This logic falls a little short in the “information age”. We are inundated with news from the world. Flipping to the Discovery Channel when CNN has a story about the food crisis in Africa hardly counts for ignorance. You can’t claim ignorance with knowledge at your fingertips. Ignorance certainly is bliss, but willful ignorance to assuage our conscience is without excuse (1 John 3:17).
2. Save the day.
Many of us do stay informed and when news of crisis reaches us we swoop in to save the day. We appreciate just how much we have in light of those that have nothing and we reach out compassionately to save a life. God commands this (Isaiah 58:6-7), but do we go far enough?
If your child were walking along the edge of a dangerous cliff would you allow them to continue in the hope that when they fell over the edge you could catch them before they fell to their death?
Isn’t this what we do when we respond to this crisis in this way? We send just enough to get them through the crisis situation only to leave them in abject poverty and cronic malnutrition. We leave them tottering along the edge of the same cliff.
By the time we’ve responded to the crisis how many have we failed to catch?
3. Go the extra mile.
I like to think that a responsible person would pull the child away from the edge of the cliff to avoid a fall. Shouldn’t we do so in this case also?