Helping East Africa: The Basic Necessities and the People Who Go Without

Clean water and access to food are some of the simplest things that we can take for granted each and every day. In places like Africa, these can be some of the hardest resources to attain if you live in a rural area. Never has that been more prevalent than now, with the worst drought that East Africa has endured in more than fifty years. As you all are hopefully aware, there is a massive humanitarian crisis occurring in East Africa due to the severe drought that has brought famine to the region. Numbers vary, but an estimated 11 to 13 million inhabitants in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia are facing severe food shortages with rates of malnutrition and related deaths having reached alarming levels. Somalia is the worst affected country, with the United Nations declaring a state on famine last week in two areas of the southern part of the country, for the first time in a generation. As an Ethiopian, this issue affects me greatly since it clearly hits close to home. I was very fortunate to not have had to experience such hardships while growing up, but seeing my countrymen go through such suffering breaks my heart. As a chef, I always have in mind how to properly feed the public, but at times it's easy to forget that some people have trouble even getting any food, much less adequate nutrition.

Help those suffering in the Horn of Africa

It's often hard for us to imagine going without some of our luxuries like travel, dining out, or Internet, much less our basic necessities like food and water. But try for a minute to imagine how life would be with such deprivations. Unfortunately, millions -- not hundreds or thousands -- but millions, of people are suffering from this dilemma as we speak. Many flee their homes and villages to seek food and aid, since their own land can no longer provide for them. Because a lot of the population in these regions is spaced out throughout the country sides, access to relief efforts have proved a difficult, and even life-threatening feat for East African families. Already-overcrowded refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia are receiving more than 3,000 new refugees every day, clearly exceeding their capacities to house these refugees and the resources necessary to help them. Even if families are strong enough to flee towards these camps, many have to travel up to a hundred miles, often on foot, to seek food and aid. Many do not survive the trip or encounter other obstacles such as terrorist groups or militias in war-torn areas blocking their access to the refugee camps.

Other global dilemmas have added to the inefficiency of rescue in the area but organizations like the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF have increased their efforts to bring relief to the region. Yet, officials warn that if more is not done soon, close to 800,000 children could die of malnutrition. Undoubtedly, our help is needed to feed those in need in the Horn of Africa. Please don't allow for a whole generation in the continent of Africa possibly perish because of our neglect. Many times, directly asking for donations or help from others can be difficult or can often be received with disdain. Try thinking of other ways we can raise money for East Africa, such as through bake sales or hosting a dinner party where guests can offer donations to the cause. Whatever way we can help, even by passing along information or websites where others can donate, is valuable to this crisis.

Please visit the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF websites for information on how you can donate and help relief efforts. If not addressed with urgency, this may turn into a worse humanitarian calamity.