As you all may be aware, the current famine in the Horn of Africa is an issue that I have been focusing my attention on. With over 2 million children at risk of death through malnutrition, relief efforts can't come fast enough to that area of the world.
Last month, the United Nations declared famine in two parts of Somalia, although millions of others are also suffering in the surrounding areas of Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. A total of 13 million people are affected by the worst drought in Africa in over 60 years, with few signs of hope. Although relief efforts from organizations like UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme have increased their aid to these areas, food and medical aid may not reach all necessary areas due to impasses from militia groups, or from rebels terrorizing refugees making their way out of their homes or aid organizations bringing relief efforts in. That is why our attention is still needed for these millions of affected families.
As a chef, seeing innumerable people, especially children, die of starvation is an obvious dilemma for me. That is why I have joined efforts with fellow chefs to raise more awareness about how we can help, as well as to raise money for more aid to the area. On Thursday, August 18th, Food Republic, our food website that features extensive food news and culture, will be hosting a live Twitter chat with me and fellow Chefs John Besh, Andrew Zimmern, Aaron Sanchez, Beau MacMillan, Michael Voltaggio, and sites Foodspotting and Food + Tech Connect about our roles using social media to raise awareness about food and other causes, such as this crisis in East Africa. We will also simultaneously host a live auction of personal giveaways whose funds will go to UNICEF relief in the famine-stricken areas.
The topic of the Twitter chat is: "Food and Social Media: What are our responsibilities?" The discussion is meant to generate ideas and raise awareness and spur social action to help alleviate the crisis. When I co-founded Food Republic, I wanted to create a neutral arena for debate on food politics and issues. Famine in poverty-stricken areas such as East Africa couldn't be more fitting of a topic to raise awareness through Food Republic. By engaging other well-known chefs, the public can perhaps see a different perspective on the matter, realize the efforts coming forth from the food industry itself, and hopefully be moved to help the cause as well.
Each Chef is donating two items to an accompanying online auction with all proceeds given to support UNICEF relief efforts for children threatened by drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. Some of the auction items include a "vintage" signed chef jacket, a dinner for four at my restaurant Red Rooster Harlem hosted by me, and a Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" game and signed book by Andrew Zimmern. More auction items are still to come.
So I hope you will join us for our Twitter chat on August 18th starting at 2pm, hosted by @FoodRepub and help our efforts to educate about the East African crisis. I look forward to engaging with my fellow chefs in this important discussion about what the food community can do to help the millions of Africans currently at risk from this famine, and I hope you do too.
To follow or participate in the chat, use the hashtag #FRchat which will create a thread people can follow.
Follow Marcus Samuelsson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarcusCooks