“Can you speak my truth to the power in your communities?”
This was the request that Mali, who I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon, made to Kirsty Robertson, the CEO of Caritas Australia, when Kirsty visited her village in Ethiopia two months ago. Mali had just returned from a trip to collect water that has taken her longer and further from her family as the drought in the Horn of Africa has worsened. It was originally a 40-minute return journey, then four hours, and, when Kirsty met Mali, it had just taken her 18 hours to collect enough water for her family for the next three or four days.
Mali’s community are pastoralists and are heavily dependent on consistent rainfall to nurture their crops and livestock. The drought – this is their fifth year without significant rain – has been devastating to this community. As Mali explained, “We have no crops left; they have almost all died. When it’s a good time, we feed the children two times a day. Now, it maybe once in a day. We don’t know what will happen next. Please speak my truth to the power in your communities.”
Approximately 7 million children under 5 years are acutely malnourished in Ethiopia. This is a crisis that is being driven by climate change (the worst drought in 40 years), the disruption to food supplies caused by Covid 19 and by conflict. (Approximately 40-90% of grain supplies to the Horn of African formerly came from Ukraine.)
What we have learned from food crises in the past is that it is better to act earlier than later – before famine is declared.
A 2014 DFAT report, evaluating Australia’s response to the 2012 famine in Somalia concluded:
“Relying on a declaration of famine or pressure from the media before acting leads to unnecessary death and suffering. For famine to be declared, many people have already died and many others would be about to die. It is also inefficient in terms of resources. Once famine is declared, it takes time to mobilise resources and then implement humanitarian programs. It costs a lot more to feed people on the edge of starvation than it does to pre-empt it.”
The good news is that the Albanese Government has just announced a $15 million emergency assistance package to fight famine in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. But more is needed. (As one of the women I was with at Parliament House cheekily commented, “I think he left off a zero!”)
As we did on Sunday, can I encourage you to send a letter to your MP (the letter template and local MP’s addresses are below) or use this link to keep emailing your MPs and join Micah Australia’s call for an urgent $150 million famine prevention package to assist the worst-affected communities in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
I am on leave over the next week. Steve will be preaching this Sunday and James Cox the following Sunday. Thank you very much to both of them!
May the God of grace – who creates a place of grace where all will meet – be with you!
I am writing to you because… (state concern of global food crisis)
I believe we can make a different… (outline the three ‘asks’ above)
We have reason for hope because… (as Christians we believe change can happen and the Bible compels us to speak up for those most in need)
We understand that this is a critical time for our own nation but believe that action is vital to save lives and to help create a safer world for us all.
We are praying for you… (prayer of support for our MP)
Your sincerely… (your name and address)
Our ACT Federal Representatives:
Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher, Senator for ACT, Unit 3, 40 Corinna Street, Phillip, ACT, 2606
Address her as: Dear Senator or Dear Senator Gallagher…
Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fenner, Cnr Gungahlin Pl & Efkarpidis St, Gungahlin, ACT, 2912
Address him as: Dear Sir or Dear Dr Leigh…
Ms Alicia Payne MP, Member for Canberra, 221 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT, 2601
Address her as: Dear Madam or Dear Ms Payne…
Senator David Pocock, Senator for ACT, PO Box 705, Gungahlin, ACT, 2912
Address him as: Dear Senator or Dear Senator Pocock…
Mr David Smith MP, Member for Bean, 205 Anketell Street, Tuggeranong, ACT, 2900
Address him as: Dear Sir or Dear Mr Smith….