Starved Babies, Raped Mommies, Famine in Africa—Do You Care?

The crisis heightens in East Africa, but there are ways to help

There are the thousands of emaciated babies. There are the tens of thousands of acutely malnourished babies, many of whom have to be intravenously fed through the nose. There are the widespread rapes of mothers and daughters, with certain females particularly vulnerable, like those who were gang-raped by six men, like the one who was kidnapped and gang-raped for three days in the presence of her traumatized children, and like the one who was raped while holding onto her infant. There are the desperate mothers, barefoot in the blistering heat, forced to carry children in perilous, last-ditch attempts to seek lifesaving help. There are the makeshift grave sites that are on-the-spot cemeteries for many, like the 35-year-old mother who died after intermittently walking with and carrying her children for 180 miles. These are just some of the 11.3 million human beings directly affected by a tragic environmental event that continues to give rise to such horrors. Those millions of children, women and men are in urgent need of food, water, medicine, protection, shelter and clothing.

These horrors are the result of an East African famine primarily affecting Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, which is aggravated by the Sudanese government’s oppression and rebel forces’ criminality that altogether has created “the worst food crisis in the 21st century … (and it) is only going to get worse over the coming months,” reported Oxfam, the 98-country confederation committed to ending poverty. It’s a “disaster requiring the largest emergency relief operation since the Berlin airlift,” noted the internationally acclaimed Human Rights Watch. And sadly, as pointed out by Oxfam, “There has been a catastrophic breakdown of the world’s collective responsibility. The warning signs have been seen for months, and the world has been slow to act.”

Things have gotten so bad that the UN was compelled a few weeks ago to declare the ultimate “Phase Five” situation, which means an official determination that a “famine” exists. This is based on a five-stage technical classification system to calculate when a series of indicators become so severe that a humanitarian emergency (such as rampant starvation, acute malnutrition rates above 30 percent, drought-stricken regions, forced migration of masses of people, and all or nearly all livestock dead) worsens into a humanitarian catastrophe. It’s then that the international response must kick into the highest gear—in other words, “Phase Five”—because people’s ability to find any food has disintegrated. And that is now occurring in Somalia. The last time drought conditions were this bad in East Africa was about 60 years ago.

Most from Somalia are fleeing into neighboring Kenya, which is south of Sudan and where, relatively speaking, one of the largest and best-equipped refugee camp complexes is located. The problem is that the site, located in Dadaab, is woefully and dangerously inadequate. Many occupants have been there for more than 20 years, and more than 1,000 arrive daily—almost all having walked there, a significant percentage as far as 100 miles. Those supposedly fortunate enough to actually reach the complex have to wait two months to get registered and fed inside, so they languish outside in handmade twig-structures with discarded paper and sheets serving as coverings. In just the third week of July, more than 5,100 refugees arrived at the three Dadaab campsites, bringing the total to about 390,000 in and around the complex—which was built to hold only 90,000. Doctors Without Borders, a 40-year-old worldwide medical relief organization, states that the number of refugees will skyrocket to half a million by the end of the year. In southern Sudan alone, nearly 2.7 million are close to starvation. In southern Somalia, declared UNICEF, “1.25 million children are in urgent need of lifesaving interventions and 640,000 are acutely malnourished.” Tens of thousands of Somalis have died of malnutrition-related causes in the past few months alone.

And when you think that things can’t get any worse, they do—most certainly for women and girls. When they leave the purported safety of the refugee camps to gather firewood or to relieve themselves, many are sexually assaulted. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees indicates that, “Displaced women face the threat of rape daily … (and in regard to Somalia specifically) sexual violence is a serious problem … (with) war-related rape … (being) widespread.” As of June, the number of rapes doubled from those that occurred from January to May.

So what’s the solution? The answer is you. You can help end the famine and the assaults on women and girls who are forced to travel to perilous and distant locations for food, water and supplies. You can do it by supporting America’s innovative “Feed The Future” initiative, which is a project that raises agricultural productivity and helps populations to adapt to increasingly erratic weather patterns, thereby soon eradicating longstanding cycles of droughts and famines and accordingly allowing the inhabitants to provide for themselves in their own safe communities. Send an email to for more info. And you can send a donation specifically earmarked for the Somalian refugee crisis to Oxfam and/or to Doctors Without Borders. Send an email to and/or for additional info.

Or you can do absolutely nothing and completely ignore starved babies and raped women and girls. You can simply say you don’t care. Edmund Burke hit it right on the head when he said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing.” But he wasn’t talking about you. Was he?