• Live simply, that others may simply live

    Posted by Eliza

    27 July, 2011

    Last Thursday, while most of us were finishing our lunch, famine was declared in two southern regions of Somalia. With a belly full of Thai food and a half eaten piece of cake sitting beside my desk I read the headline 'Millions at risk as famine declared'. My stomach twisted- 11 million people are facing starvation and I can't remember the last time I finished everything on my plate.

    The food crisis sweeping the Horn of Africa has created a 'triangle of hunger' between Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Of the regions affected, Somalia has been hit hardest with a combined force of 20 years of unwavering political unrest and the worst drought the nation has seen in 60 years. The United Nations has estimated that 3.7 million - nearly half the country's population - are currently facing severe food shortages.

    The UN will not declare famine lightly. Technically, at least 20 per cent of households must be facing extreme food shortages, 30 per cent of people must be suffering from severe malnutrition and there must be at least two deaths per 10 000 people each day. In the regions of Bakool and Shabell, these statistics have become reality and there is fear in the international community that other regions of Somalia are currently experiencing or a soon to experience a similar fate.

    This is a reality that I cannot even imagine.

    In my previous job as a children's party host I would be forced to throw out whole sandwich platters, cheeseburgers and beautiful fresh fruit because the party guests needed to leave room for cake. For years I witnessed a disgusting amount of food being wasted. I wasn't throwing out scraps but entire meals of good and healthy food. During my first few weeks at that job I would leave work feeling angry, trying to invent some way of bundling up that food and sharing it around the world. But after those weeks, the huge waste of food became routine and it no longer shocked me. In fact I had become so hardened to the practice that I didn't even realise the amount of food I was wasting every day on my own accord. Ever since I can remember I have found it hard to finish meals. Not because I don't eat a lot but because I eat bite size meals, a lot. I would order a meal, eat half of it and answer the waiter with 'yes it was delicious, I just couldn't finish it all'.

    When famine was declared in Somalia I tried to remember the last time I finished an entire meal but I couldn't. I've just spent the past two weeks in America, where food is all about quantity. So as someone who struggles to finish their meals in Australia you can imagine how hard it was to even put a dent in my dinner. I would eat until I was full, knowing that when I became hungry again, I could just buy more food. While I was leaving huge portions of good and healthy food untouched, millions in the Horn of Africa were starving.

    I don't know how you have responded to the famine in East Africa, but if you are like me you might feel indulgent and helpless.

    Sometimes I see prayer as a last resort - something to do when there is absolutely nothing else that I can do. But prayer should be our first resort. Before we do anything else, we should pray; pray for those suffering, pray for the leaders of the countries affected; pray for our leaders and pray that the way we respond to this crisis will honour God. Prayer is the ultimate cure for helplessness, but we should not wait to feel helpless before we speak to God.

    The events in the Horn of Africa have opened my eyes to just how much I indulge myself. I enjoy going out for dinner and spending money on expensive food and drinks. I'm reminded of that saying 'live simply so that others may simply live'.

    Perhaps a way that we can respond is by doing just that - staying home for dinner and donating the money that you would have spent on going out; using coffee plunger in the office instead of going out to buy one, then at the end of the week, calculate how much you have saved and donate it. Many of our endorsing agencies are working on the ground and taking donations for their Emergency Relief funds. I don't know how you live and what 'simply' might look like for you, but those are two ways that I know I could be living more simply.

    Eliza Whalley is Micah Challenge's Political Engagement Intern.