Dr. Jill Biden and the US officials who joined her on a trip to a refugee center in Kenya want the American people to understand how severe the crisis caused by a combination of drought, famine and war has become, especially on the most vulnerable population, the children of Somalia.
“It touched my heart,” said Dr. Biden about reading the news and seeing the footage of the spreading humanitarian crisis, “as a mother, I watched these children … saw them starving and thought, we have to do something.” Earlier this week, she traveled to the Dadaab refugee complex in Eastern Kenya, where approximately 420,000 people who have fled war-torn Somalia in search of food, water and shelter, are currently living in a tented city originally built to accommodate 90,000.
Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist, another member of the delegation, says more must be done to help famine victims. "A lot of people don't realize, especially in this environment of what's happening in terms of the economy here and at home, that this is the most acute food security emergency anywhere in the world now and in recent years," he said.
"The crisis is growing fast, and we saw that firsthand on the ground, talking to individual families as they were coming into refugee camps who literally had walked for 15 and 16 days - a mom with her four children; a husband, a father who is absent who is still in Somalia. They don't know whether or not he's alive," Frist said of the situation, which has resulted in the deaths of 29,000 children under the age of five in the past three months alone.
Contributions made by the U.S government and the international community are helping to ease the suffering - but the famine is spreading and without life-saving assistance, hundreds of thousands of people – most of them children – could die from starvation and disease in the coming months. There is a role for all individuals to take action and save lives.
“I have seen firsthand that even the simplest form of aid can save lives and even tiny investments can make a huge impact,” Frist, who is also a doctor, wrote in the Huffington Post. “A measles vaccination costs under $2 and therapeutic feeding can cost as little as a dollar a day. A small donation from you can save the life of a child and I am confident that even in our own tough times, Americans will respond generously as they always have when catastrophe strikes around the globe.”
And in the video above, Dr. Biden urges those who have been moved, as she has, to go to USAID, to learn more about the crisis in the Horn of Africa, and how you can help.