Yesterday I tuned in to the official launch of the FWD (Famine. War. Drought.) campaign following the White House live streamed video web chat. As a representative of World Vision but also as a private citizen, I was interested in what some of our nation’s top officials had to say about the U.S. response to some of the greatest crises yet in the 21st century.
I captured some highlights from the discussion to share with you, and have noted the minute mark for many of the questions asked. This is not an exact transcription, but a paraphrased overview.
The state of play in the Horn of Africa: -- Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council
The people in the region are experiencing the worst drought in 60 years. That means that farmers have very little to fall back on. People are literally dying as we speak. Without assistance, they will in fact die.
The importance of acting now:, Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator
There are 13 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa. Already more than 30,000 children have lost their lives from starvation or the consequences of severe malnutrition and the disease that accompanies it. The UN estimates that number could grow to 750,000 over the course of the next six months.
Now is the time to act. This is also a moment to acknowledge that when we do these actions, it is an expression of American values. The more Americans that can engage in the response, the better off we will all be in saving lives today and putting in place the systems that can help prevent these tragedies in the future.
Americans are deeply generous people and the small actions we can take together send a very powerful signal to those in need. American generosity and commitment can leave a lasting change...
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Questions from the in-house and online audience
Many of us look at the acute crisis in the Horn and see an opportunity to bring greater urgency to larger issue of food security. Leading into next week’s G20 Summit, how will food security be addressed and how can we use the Summit to advance a larger food security agenda? – Adam Taylor, World Vision (9:42)
Gayle Smith: Food security is not just about giving aid to countries so they are more food secure, it’s about investing into the solutions that give us food security – countries owning their own plans, coordinating for greater effectiveness, science, technology, and working collectively to attract investors to create systems that allow people to be less vulnerable to the things we are now seeing in the Horn.
Food security and infrastructure are both on the G20 agenda. The goal is to get ahead of the curve. How can we strengthen the ability of poor people around the world who are so avertedly affected by things like what is happening in the Horn, but more importantly, who are working people.
How can issues be addressed when war is a daily occurrence in the Horn of Africa? -- Michael, Twitter follower (15:15)
How are you working differently to both immediately addressing the needs of people but also addressing the potential long-term solutions so we don’t find ourselves in the same place 10 years from now? -- Sam Worthington, InterAction (17:26)
Dr. Shah: Those involved are using more innovative means to immediately meet needs – working locally, ready to eat therapeutic food... We’ve also learned that protecting the health of children is key.
We are seeing more evidence of focusing on the short-term and long-term together.
What is the USG strategy for an integrated effort to address gender based violence? –Women Thrive, Twitter (23:05)
Dr. Shah: We target women with our programs because we know that when women have an income they are far more likely to invest it into their children and their education and welfare. You get more bang for your buck when women are the primary beneficiaries.
There is a huge amount of violence that targets women in crises like this. We’re trying to make sure there are safe places for women and that they are protected. We always need to be doing more to protect women from violence…
What about fighting corruption as a means of fighting hunger? -- Alexander, Twitter (25:11)
Gayle Smith: Corruption eats away at progress. Corruption cannot be part of the environment if we are going to make progress.
Social media allows citizens to hold governments accountable. We cannot underestimate the power of social media in an environment where the reach of technology is much farther than we think.
More and more governments now recognize corruption undermines their ability to govern well or be development leaders.
What long-term effects will we see in the US and in the world if the global community ignores this crisis? – Twitter follower (28:52)
Gayle Smith: One of the impacts of malnutrition on kids is that it’s a lasting deficit. So we will see kids and families that will be hurt for their whole lives. The second thing we will see is that we will have failed on our key moral values. For this country, it’s important that we stand up. And we are. It’s critically important for the whole world that we hang on to that generosity. The last thing we will see if we don’t act is that this will happen again. The cycle of crisis in this area will continue if we don’t help. Investing in their future is incredibly important. Nobody wants to be in this cycle forever.
How can American students and uUniversities best contribute to USAID’s efforts in the Horn of Africa? -0 Twitter follower (33:56)
What is USAID doing to empower youth in the Horn of Africa? -- Twitter follower (37:08)
To average Americans, how would you convince your neighbor to be a part of the solution? – Twitter follower (39:29)
Dr. Shah: There isn’t any one-way. To me, the moral case – the fact you make a contribution so easily and quickly is enough to say that Americans can do it. When we act collectively, you can see and feel the emotional gratitude and results on the ground. The sooner we can all be active participants in the global community, the better off we will all be.
I would urge you to give it your best shot. The power of your voice is more powerful than the power of our voice in the same context. If you give the 10-20 minutes it takes to forward (fwd) the reason you think others should care – you will be exercising the basic American value of generosity and engagement.
Gayle Smith: Tell a story. When people hear a story and you give them the facts – they can act. Tell the story, FWD has the facts, reach out and we can collectively do what needs to be done in the best way possible.
World Vision is a proud partner in the FWD campaign -- a public awareness initiative from U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and U.S. Ad Council to elevate the profile of the current crisis in the Horn of Africa. Visit the FWD website and forward the facts.
Read more of our posts about the crisis in the Horn of Africa.