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Better, Together

WE Communications Blog: CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin

7/18/2017
— Melissa Waggener Zorkin 

No one should ever go to bed hungry. Yet every day, some 800 million people around the world—more than 10 percent of the world’s population—do just that. 

What’s more, the U.N. estimates that some 60 percent of those chronically hungry people are women and girls. And when women suffer, children suffer. Moms who don’t get enough to eat when they’re pregnant have malnourished babies whose physical and mental development can be seriously impaired, leading to a lifetime of health problems that can keep them from growing into their full potential.    

For now, there is plenty of food to go around; the problem is that the hungriest people simply don’t have access to it. In many places, infrastructure like good roads and sanitary food-storage facilities simply don’t exist. In others, conflict and displacement make it nearly impossible for PEOPLE to get the food they need. Everywhere, chronic poverty and gender inequality mean that many families struggle to get enough to eat.

It’s pretty simple: in order for anybody to live a healthy and productive life, she needs access to safe, nutritious food. That’s the first step towards true equality.

For the past 11 years I’ve served on the board of Mercy Corps, a Portland-based nonprofit that works in countries around the world to connect people to the tools and resources they need to survive, thrive, and transform their communities. Mercy Corps is not the biggest NGO, but they are mighty, focused and the execution engine I have chosen to partner with to enact change around the world. I’m so proud of the work we do: we move quickly to tackle the toughest challenges, and we push to imagine innovative new approaches to chronic world problems.

This week, Mercy Corps launches a very cool project, a first-of-its-kind alliance with the U.S.-based nonprofits CARE, the International Medical Corps, the International Rescue CommitteeOxfamPlan InternationalSave the Children, and World Vision called the Global Emergency Response Coalition. The eight members of the Global Emergency Response Coalition share a single goal: to deliver immediate relief to hungry children and families in East Africa, West Africa, and Yemen.  

Right now, because of food shortages caused by drought and violent conflict, more than 20 million people are at risk of starvation across Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen. (That’s more than the populations of New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia combined.) What’s more, without emergency assistance, 1.4 million children will soon die.

The U.N. calls this the most severe humanitarian crisis since its founding in 1945—but if we act now, together, we can do something about it.   

Here at WE, we know that our best ideas come when we put our heads together and work as a team. We remember what Pope Francis told us in his TED talk this year. “None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other,” he said. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.”

I love that these organizations are leaving competition at the door and coming together to do more as one than they could do separately.

It’s an idea with a long, proud history. After World War I, for instance, the Red Cross Societies of the United States, Britain, France, Japan, and Italy joined together to form what’s now the 190-member International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This cooperation made the Red Cross much stronger and better able to save lives and reduce suffering around the world. And after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a Harvard Humanitarian Initiative study found that when aid agencies collaborated with one another they shared information more effectively and met their goals—food distribution, for instance—more quickly. (That Harvard study also found that when aid agencies did not collaborate—when they engaged in “flag-planting” or inter-agency competition, for example—their work suffered for it.)

Likewise, by combining the resources and expertise of these eight amazing organizations, I believe the Global Emergency Response Coalition will be proof positive that we really are stronger when we join hands and stand up to fight global problems—together.

But despite its scope and urgency, the media in the United States has not paid much attention to the hunger crisis, and Americans know very little about it. This, of course, is right in our wheelhouse; if anyone understands the power of great storytelling, it’s WE.

That’s how YOU can help.

Share the story by following the Global Emergency Response Coalition social channels:

And, use the hashtag #FightFamine to thread the conversation as you spread the word.

Of course, you can also help by donating at https://www.globalemergencyresponse.org

The challenge is daunting, but the Global Emergency Response Coalition’s promise is real. I’m so pleased and proud to be a part of the coalition’s push to reverse this looming humanitarian catastrophe. We really are better together—and together, we can #FightFamine and win.

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