Don’t Lose Sight of Somalia

This Christmas, every four seconds a person will die from hunger. As we race to place our orders for Christmas Day hams and prawns and pack trollies full of gifts, 50 million people are on the brink of famine in Somalia.

That’s double the population of our entire country.

This month, I will be travelling to Africa to see the famine first hand.

It will give me a better understanding of the challenges on the ground and help me be a better advocate for them but I am already feeling uncomfortable.

But unlike the people there, I get to leave. I go back to a Christmas table not only replete with a healthy family but also full with an abundance of food.

It’s the contrast of abundance and desperation that makes me uncomfortable.

Right now, as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. In 35-degree heat and no rain in sight, families are walking for days to find food.

A single graveyard in Somalia has just been filled with the bodies of 230 children. The Horn of Africa has suffered four consecutive failed rainy seasons due to a severe drought and another is likely on the way. That’s been compounded by civil wars, political instability and cost of living spikes that the rest of us are also enduring.

Much to my Mum’s dismay, I learnt very early that unfortunately the left-over vegetables on my plate can’t be transferred to a starving child in Africa. But I do think it’s important for us as a nation to remember that privilege and responsibility are intrinsically linked.

I know many Australians are doing it tough. Deadly bushfires. The pandemic. Relentless flooding and rain and soaring cost of living pressures.

I want you to have a brilliant Christmas because we all deserve something light and fun and joyful. I don’t want you to feel guilty for a second. But, if I could be so bold, I would ask you to keep the famine in mind while doing your Christmas shopping. A donation to a charity fighting famine on the ground as a stocking filler could be a gift that keeps someone alive and that’s always worth a thought while you’re trawling the aisles.

It does, however, feel a bit rich to ask the individual to reach into their pocket when the government is still not reaching for their own.

The Albanese Government should go back to the table and do the figures again. And then again.

Collectively, NGOs called for $150 million to aid the famine in Africa. We allocated 10 per cent of that.

Canada has provided $277 million to support the global food crisis. Australia’s $15 million is not even in the same ballpark. We are a lucky and grateful country. But we must also be a responsible one.

Michael McCormack is the Federal Member for Riverina and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific