"You should eat those vegetables," my father, Regis, said one night in the late 1960's. "The little children in Biafra would be happy to eat those vegetables." With that comment, the idea that there might be starving people in the world crept onto my radar. But it wasn't until many years later, during the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia, that I really sat up and noticed. So did the rest of the world. Pictures of starving children assaulted our senses every night through our television sets. The world was outraged.
Like most people, I loved Band Aid and Live Aid. I am embarrassed to admit that I still tear up when I hear "We Are the World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas"-almost unbearable. Yes, the world was outraged and people tried to help, but outrage is a simple, often fleeting, emotion and famine is a complex, recurring, problem. It was many more years before I realized that famine is also about politics and that the simple equation of drought=famine was reductionism in the extreme.
Here in southern Sudan, food security is so fragile that even a minor drought can cause a severe food shortage. A poor harvest can mean the death of many children. We are currently in what is known as the 'Hunger Gap', essentially at the end of the dry season when the food stores are running out and before the next year's harvest. The 'Hunger Gap' occurs every year in Lankien to a greater or lesser extent. There is no concert, no celebrities, no feel good lyrics. We Are The World? Indeed.