A few short weeks ago, I visited the home of a single mother to three boys. She sat quietly next to me and we tried to nonverbally communicate through a series of smiles, nervous laughter and gestures. She reminded me of other mothers; strong, caring and loving. The difference between this mother and other mothers I know is that she led her children out of Syria to safety in Lebanon after her husband was killed. Her children have witnessed war, death and destruction, but life must go on for this family. With no home to call their own; they are stateless.
They are refugees.
My new friend and her family join 65.3 million other individuals who have been displaced from their homes due to war, conflict or climate change. Nearly 1 in every 100 persons around the world are displaced from their homes and, on average, people remain displaced from their homes for 17 years. For my friend, this means she must plan a new future for her children: one that will occur outside the comfort of her own home.
Today, and everyday, we celebrate my new friend and the millions of other refugees around the world who are learning new languages, navigating differences in cultures and dreaming new futures for their children. We lift up their courage and strength, and trade fear for kindness.
Ambassador Tony Hall serves as Convoy of Hope’s Special Advisor on Hunger. He recently discussed the Africa Hunger Crisis that could soon become a famine in many parts of East Africa. With tens of millions of lives at stake, Ambassador Hall believes time is of the essence and every citizen in the United States can play a significant role in combating the crisis.
Convoy: Reports suggest that many countries in East Africa are on the brink of mass famine, so why should friends of Convoy of Hope be concerned?
Ambassador Hall: Today in areas threatened by famine, people are at risk of dying from starvation at a rate that rivals that of World War II. We need to pay attention and intervene in this crisis because we can play a part in saving the lives of children and families. Convoy of Hope knows what to do and is already on the ground helping those in need.
Convoy: Six years ago, more than 260,000 people died in Africa because of famine. With the region on the brink of famine once again, why is the media not reporting on the crisis?
Ambassador Hall: There are so many things going on throughout the world from the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe, to threats from North Korea, to terrorist attacks on civilians in major cities throughout the world that the hunger crisis in Africa is being overlooked. It’s our moral duty to make the crisis in East Africa a story that we not only advocate for, but one that we intervene in and take action to correct.
Convoy: Food insecurity, famine and lack of proper nutrition take a severe toll on all who are caught up in it. Describe what those scourges look like on the ground.
Ambassador Hall: The first 1,000 days of a child’s life from conception to age 2 are crucial days that dictate the child’s quality of life. When children do not get proper nutrition and care during those first days they suffer stunted growth, impaired brain development, and their immune systems are so weakened that they become more prone to diseases that can take their lives. This is not acceptable and it can be corrected with proper nutrition. There is enough food for everyone, we just need to get it to those in need.
Convoy: If we end hunger, we wipe out many other factors that kill people too?
Ambassador Hall: Twenty-one thousand people die every day. This is absolutely senseless. When you compound the impact diseases can have on a person’s life with a hunger crisis or famine and the results are devastating to millions and millions of people. We have to take a stand against hunger and do everything within our means to combat it.
Convoy: Besides supporting Convoy of Hope’s work on the ground in East Africa, what else can our friends do to combat the hunger crisis and impending famine?
Ambassador Hall: There are several things every American can do! First, start advocating by alerting and educating your children, family, friends and neighbors. Use your influence on social media to bring awareness to the problem. We also need to reach out our elected officials and let them know that the crisis in East Africa is one that the United States needs to be actively involved in combating.
Convoy: You’ve said taking on this crisis and working toward ending it is a moral duty. Can you elaborate on that?
Ambassador Hall: The Gospels talk of Jesus imploring us to help the least of these. That was as true then as it is today. We have a moral responsibility to help those who are hungry and suffering. I am thankful that Convoy of Hope is actively working to end both. In doing so, we are not only helping those in need — we are stopping the spread of ISIS and other terrorists who are actively recruiting hungry and hurting people. If we don’t feed the hungry and help those who are hurting, ISIS and others of their ilk will. The fact is, hunger is a security issue and we cannot stand by.
Convoy: Anything else you’d like add?
Ambassador Hall: The burden is on all of us to bring awareness to this crisis and to be actively involved in combating it. Twenty-one million people are facing starvation. Let’s help Convoy of Hope help them.
Convoy of Hope President, Hal Donaldson, was inducted into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame that honors individuals, who through their academic, personal or professional achievements, demonstrate active civic engagement to improve the lives of others.
“These honorees are exemplary individuals who use their skills and abilities to effect positive change on people from around the world,” said Missouri State President Clifton M. Smart III. “They exemplify the characteristics of ethical leadership, community engagement and cultural competence. The state of Missouri, our nation and the world are better because of these individuals.”
Other inductees include Maxine Clark, Ann Covington, Judith Rowland and Langston Hughes. Donaldson thanked the local community for its collective involvement in bringing hope to people in need.
“The compassion and generosity of people in the Ozarks has helped make Convoy of Hope what it is today,” said Donaldson. “It is a privilege to be a part of this community.”