Months ago, I posted on the worsening and crisis conditions at the Dadaab refugee camp on the border between Somalia and Kenya. The famine ravaging East Africa is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Back in August, Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, chairman of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) released a joint statement urging bishops and pastors to take up a second collection specifically for the Horn of Africa. They document the work being done by CRS and the need for greater resources with which to respond to the needs of the people in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. According to CRS data:
More than 12 million East Africans face malnutrition and starvation in the midst of the region’s worst drought in decades.
Over at the Huffington Post, Bono (lead singer of U2 and co-founder of One.org) argues that this famine is not only tragic, it is obscene. He writes:
I’ve been known to drop the occasional expletive, but the most offensive F word to me is not the one that goes f***. It’s F***** — the famine happening in Somalia.
Drought, violence and political instability have invited in the grim reaper on a scale we have not seen in 20 years… more than 30,000 children have died in just three months. The pictures from Dadaab look like a nightmare from centuries past. Yet, this is the 21st century and these pictures are real and, on the whole, unseen. The food crisis in the Horn of Africa is nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe, but it is getting less attention than the latest Hollywood break-ups and make-ups.
The newest media from the One Campaign entitled ” The F – Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity” challenges us to recognize and respond to the hard facts. 30,000 Somali children have died in the last 3 months. Drought, they argue is a natural occurrence; famine; however, is man made.
While I cannot seem to embedd a video, I highly recommend taking a look and thinking about what we consider Obscene. Actors, activists, musicians and politicians cutting across political divides are challenging us to take as stand against what they argue is a human-made crisis.
There is strong historical evidence (such as the Irish potato famine) and economic evidence (the landmark work of Amartya Sen on the economics of famine) demonstrating that yes, drought is a natural phenomenon but famines, at least in the modern period, are man-made. From the perspective of Christian ethics, the famine in East Africa and ongoing suffering is both unjust and scandalous. The One Campaign, Catholic relief services, and other organizations are calling for our voice – calling for us to speak up for the Foreign Aid budget, which is now on the chopping block.
Personally, I find their use of obscenity quite interesting and accurate. From the perspective of Christian ethics, it seems quite congruous with our deeper understanding of scandal as being more than an embarrassing headline. In this celebrity culture where scandal and obscenity appear to be about news headlines and salacious headlines – are we even phased by real scandal? real obscenity? I am not minimizing the obscenity of the f-word; but, it seems quite obvious to me that the situation at the Dadaab refugee camp is obscene. The question is, as one human community, will we respond?
Thank you for your post on the famine and on ONE’s latest video and campaign. Always edifying, so to speak, to see action and theology reside together on the www.