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"You can blame droughts on God, but famines are manmade. This shouldn't be happening."

So said humanitarian rock star Bono in a recent interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on the current crisis in the Horn of Africa. More than 30,000 children under age 5 have died in the famine in the past four months, and another 12 million people are at risk of starvation. The number of dead was expected to increase significantly as this edition of Christianity Today went to press.

As Bono and other activists have pointed out, solutions are possible. "Since famine is manmade, it can be undone by human activity and human intervention," said former senator William Frist, who recently visited the area as part of a U.S. delegation. Scientists, politicians, and aid organizations knew up to 18 months ago that the drought—Africa's worst in 60 years—was coming, but lacked the resources and access to avert the famine that would almost certainly accompany it. Preemptive aid, including food, water, medical supplies, and agricultural assistance, prepared millions of Kenyans and Ethiopians to survive. But millions more in war-torn Somalia never received such help, and many are still unreachable due to fighting and factions, particularly where the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab is active. As a result, hundreds of thousands have poured out of the country into refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

The U.S. federal government has sent more than $580 million, but with a debt crisis and a Congress looking to cut spending, it is calling on the private sector, particularly the faith-based community, to step up. (By comparison, the government sent about $1 billion to the Horn of Africa during a 2008 drought that was significantly less ...

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Undoing the Famine Damage
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October 2011

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