A father and his two sons knelt in their fields in North Eastern Colorado to pray for rain. In the grips of the Dust Bowl, the fields that produced the livelihoods of millions of Americans and the food that this nation needed to support itself dried up in the worst drought the nation ever faced.
March 1937: Roosevelt addressed the nation in his second inaugural address, stating, “I see one-third of the nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished . . . the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
Now 9000 miles from those fields and eighty years later, a similar drought has wrought the worst famine in the Horn of Africa and 12.4 million people are in severe need of food. Many are walking days on end to reach feeding centers, or simply to escape the desolation at home.
The scale of that disaster is so huge that it feels futile to even try. I’ve overheard a fair few people in my (extremely-affluent) town throwing out, “Well, if we help them and prevent those children from dying, then there will just be a bigger population when the next famine hits and they’ll die with their own children” over their $14.95 lunch sandwich with french fries.
And it makes me a little bit ill. Since when is condemning people to die a horrible death considered polite lunch conversation?
I want to fly across the oceans and go to the Dabaab Refugee Camp, pick up a child, and feed her the concentrated nutrition that her tiny body is screaming for. But I can’t. I feel powerless in the face of such suffering. I feel tiny. I feel distant.
And I feel like an asshole for being one of the billion people on Earth who lives on at least 20 times what the poorest billion do. Extreme poverty is manifesting itself in the Horn of Africa, but it is a global plague. And I can’t fix it.
But I can do something to help someone. I can’t fight poverty singlehandedly. As a broke-ass backpacker, I barely have any money to contribute to charitable organizations like the World Food Program, OneDaysWages, and UNICEF (Although I have contributed a small amount to each. Will I potentially miss those $20 when I am too broke to get a train to Bologna and fly home in November? Maybe. But it is worth it).
Extreme poverty is the root of all the problems that my generation will face in the 21st century. Not long ago, it was my own nation that was suffering from an asphyxiating drought. It lasted ten years before the rain finally returned.
Are you prepared to give up comforts for those who have the least? Start right now.