Bearing Witness

by Billy Shore

bearing witness to famine in Horn of Africa

Monday, September 12, 2011


Yesterday’s New York Times published a rare first person account of what it feels like to be hungry in the midst of famine. @

The tragedy in Somalia and the Horn of Africa continues to unfold in the face of man-made logistical obstacles that make meaningful relief problematic. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to continue to bear witness and fuel our own commitment to make a difference.

One of the lessons from the colossal suffering the world seems unable to stop, is that by the time a famine reaches this level, we have almost certainly missed the window of opportunity to intervene on a scale commensurate with the scope of the horror. The numbers are overwhelming and the political and security situation that prevents aid from being delivered, cannot be overcome merely with humanitarian best intentions and good will.

That is why long-range international development efforts, that do not lend themselves to dramatic film footage on the evening news, and which get so much less attention, are all the more important for us to support. One of the things we’ve always done best at Share Our Strength is to find creative ways to help people see needs of which they may not have been aware, and how they can share their own strengths to meet those needs.

As much as all of us naturally have the impulse to do something immediate for Somalia – and we have made an emergency grant and can hopefully do more – our greatest impact will come from developing a strategy, as we’ve done with No Kid Hungry here at home, that builds a larger and long-term constituency of supporters for efforts to ensure that those in famine struck regions can ultimately support themselves. That’s the kind of work that takes not only years but decades. It requires a kind of compassion and commitment that can be sustained long after this immediate crisis has passed.