After The Last Famine In Africa The World Said 'Never Again'. Yet Here We Are, Again.

Here we go again: another African crisis with 20 million people on the point of starvation -- hunger from South Sudan and Somalia, to Nigeria and Yemen.

Here we go again with the UN calling for $4.4 billion from donor governments to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but less than a tenth of the money -- $423 million -- received by the end of March, as the Trump administration prepares to make sharp cuts to its foreign aid budget, at a time of unprecedented aid need.

The UN says it needs $4.4 billion -- less than a tenth of the $54 billion increase that President Trump is seeking for the United States military budget -- to deliver food, clean water and basic medicine like oral rehydration salts to avert diarrhoea deaths among children. Only 8 percent of the money the agency needs for Yemen has been funded; for Nigeria, 9 percent; for South Sudan, 18 percent; and for Somalia, 32 percent.

Here we go again with the dreaded F word -- Famine.

After the last famine, in Somalia in 2011, in which 260,000 people died, the international community said it would never again wait so long again before acting. And yet here we are again, watching and waiting.

After 14 years in relief and development I am surprised at my own jadedness and even cynicism. I understand from my own detachment that most of the world is shrugging and saying 'not my problem'. I get it when newspaper editors tell me that Trump sells newspapers because readers have endless fascination with his Tweets and outrages, but that Africans dying from drought and conflict do not sell newspapers and do not outrage us.

As a strong, wealthy, compassionate nation Australia has a responsibility to contribute to international peace, prosperity and security and to promote and protect human rights. It is who we are. We are a nation created on the concept of a 'fair go'.

But in today's deeply interconnected world, Australia's national interest is also best served when our region -- and the world -- is peaceful and prosperous. It is no accident that a Conservative government in Britain has kept its overseas development budget at 0.7 percent of gross national income, on homeland security grounds, as prime minister Theresa May made clear in Philadelphia in January when she linked Britain's aid spend to national "security and prosperity".

Global challenges continue to transcend national borders and require international action and cooperation. The states of the world are increasingly bound together by complex ties of trade, diplomacy and security. Australia's interests are served through all states constructively functioning in a framework of internationally agreed rules, standards and norms concerning equality, human rights, good governance and the rule of law.

Decades of economic integration with regional and international markets has linked Australia's economic prospects, inextricably, to the continued social and economic progress of the world's emerging economies -- particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia, due to this complex web of economic and security interests, benefits when our region and, by extension, the world, is peaceful and prosperous.

It is not only morally the right thing to do, it is also an investment in the world we all live in.

Tim Costello is Chief Advocate of World Vision Australia 

First published in The Huffington Post, 6 April, 2017

Picture: As famine and drought spread across East Africa, girls in Kilifi County, Kenya, have had to give up school to carry water 21kms from its limited source to their homes, April, 2017.

Back to all Results