One of the founders of the first humanitarian organisation I worked for said, when confronted with a world full of overwhelming need, “do as much as you can, as well as you can, for as many as you can, for as long as you can”.
Never have these words seemed more important, as we gaze out on a global landscape that breaks all our humanitarian hearts.
We dreaded the invasion of Ukraine, not just for the great suffering that would ensue for its people, but for the inevitable diversion of the world’s attention and resources.
The urgency and significance of conflict in Ukraine cannot be overlooked, even as the scale and severity of multiple other crises pose far greater cumulative risk to human life.
Humanitarian action often involves navigating great dilemmas and choosing the least-worse option, even as you are aware, in the same moment, of unavoidable consequences elsewhere.
The impact of the Ukraine Crisis
The Ukraine crisis has compounded the ongoing global hunger crises, causing scarcity and driving up prices. Even before Ukraine erupted, we already knew beyond reasonable doubt that by mid-June there would be serious pockets of famine in places like East Africa unless world leaders heeded the early warnings and took timely preventative action.
By now we had hoped to be in the midst of a massive global galvanising effort to scale up existing operations in the East Africa and elsewhere in the face of a grave hunger risk to millions of children and their families. It has not happened and the world’s attention on the Ukraine crisis will likely be cited as an inadequate excuse.
WHO Chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said, “the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others.” Many of us, including myself, share his view as a damning indication of whose lives are valued and whose lives are not.
What matters most
Ultimately, I believe it is what happens next in terms of concrete action to redress the huge imbalance that matters most right now. We have to fight, with all we have, to generate far more public attention, political action and vital resources for all the other severe crises that so concern us.
Sadly, it may already be too late to prevent the worst effects of the looming hunger crisis in East Africa, but it is never too late to try and save another human life.