Editorial: Real problems

Published on June 13, 2017

The United Nation's Secretary-General, António Guterres, and Under-Secretary-General and emergency relief co-ordinator, Stephen O'Brien, speaks to drought victims at an IDP camp in Baidoa, Somalia, on March 7, 2017.

©UN Photo / Tobin Jones

Figure out your summer vacation plans yet?

Maybe you’re thinking of taking the family for a week in a cabin near the beach and hoping for good weather. Maybe you want to get your boat in the water. If you’re truly brave, you may be considering taking the kids camping, far from the quick electronic relief of their video games.

Perhaps you’re planning on a trip to London, or travelling south to the U.S.

Maybe you’re worried about how much it will cost. Or maybe, if you are planning to go further afield, you’re worried about something else.

Maybe you’re worried about bigger-city concerns; about deaths or injuries by terrorism, by drunk drivers, by violent crime. But in the end, we most worry about our own: about ourselves our families and our own safety.

Right now, the United Nations says it is facing a serious humanitarian disaster in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria. In fact, the United Nations says it is facing the largest humanitarian crisis in its entire history, with 20 million people facing starvation. To put it in blunt numbers, that’s equal to more than half the population of Canada.

Stop and think about that for just a minute: the confluence of droughts and civil war mean the largest threat to human life since the UN was founded in 1945.

The most serious international crisis in 72 years — in the case of many Canadians, the worst crisis in living memory.

In March, Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator, put it simply: “without collective and co-ordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death … many more will suffer and die from disease.”

How much help is needed?

“To be precise,” O’Brien said, “we need $4.4 billion by July.”

The federal government has announced $119 million in humanitarian funding for the region, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed.

Two weeks ago, the Canadian government said it would match donations for famine relief — meaning every dollar you donate turns into two. Any donation for famine relief made to registered charities — including the Canadian Red Cross, CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada and UNICEF Canada — will be matched until June 30.

It’s not much time, but enough to do plenty of good.

Think about it: we can find millions to help residents of Fort McMurray who lost property in last year’s massive wildfire. We can launch benefit concerts for the families of those killed and injured in a Manchester terrorist bombing. We find time and money for those who are enough like ourselves that we can walk around in their shoes.

Maybe you’re busy worrying that you just won’t have the best vacation ever this year.

Well, there are people with much bigger things to worry about.

And you can do something about it.