We want a fair go, not famine; This is what you need to know about our Famine Campaign.

In June we hosted a Leadership Retreat for the Group Leaders of our local RESULTS groups. Over the two days spent in The Rocks in Sydney, we built relationships, bonded over a common love of pancakes, and developed our leadership and advocacy skills.

The main focus of the weekend, however, was  teaching our group leaders how to design a campaign. Drawing from our Grassroots Engagement Manager’s recent Harvard course in Leadership, Organising and Action, we went through the key considerations of building a grassroots advocacy campaign. Among many other topics, we spoke about the importance of events, and the ‘nested goals’ you set yourself to achieve your ‘mountain top goal’; building a network strong enough to both hold up your campaign, and catch you if you fall.

This is something we haven’t ever done before at RESULTS, letting the volunteers choose their own campaign, and as far as we can tell, is quite unique in the space. We decided to try working backwards – find out what our volunteers want to speak to parliamentarians about, and then follow up with the research and discovery of key moments and events.

So what did we decide?

The group lit up when one member suggested that we talk about the current famines. The famines, despite threatening the lives of 23 million people across South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and Nigeria and being declared as potentially the worst human disaster since World War II, have received little attention compared to famines in the past. The jury is out as to why this is, but our group leaders wanted to do something about it.

So together we built a campaign. We decided to combine the need to raise public awareness and influence parliamentarians to ‘step up to the plate’ on the famine. Centering around Anti-poverty week, which will be held from the 15th to the 21st of October, the group leaders thought of ‘Foodies Against Famine’, to juxtapose Australia’s perhaps Masterchef-induced obsession with food against the unfortunate reality that this famine has driven people to eat water lilies.

Our volunteers, in their respective groups across Australia, will host food-centered events as a way of bringing communities together to both enjoy, and speak about food – who has it and who, by mere consequence of birth, does not.

Wait… did you say world’s worst human disaster since WWII?

Close to 23 million lives are at risk across South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria. This is concerning because a famine is more than just being hungry. By the IPC scale, famine exists when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10 000 people per day for the entire population. An unfortunate combination of drought and political crisis has plunged the east African region and Yemen into famine.

As the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres has stated, ‘there is no excuse for inaction in a world of plenty’. The growing food crisis not only has the makings of a tragedy, as he warned, but of a scandal. There are numerous and long-term physical, social and economic impacts of famine, including long-term physiological deterioration, reduced disease resistance, organ failure, growth stunting particularly in children, and reduced access to education and economic opportunity.

You can read more in our campaign compendium.

What have we done since?

Since our group leaders came up with this idea, we have heard from two guest speakers on our monthly Action Calls who have travelled to Africa to observe the realities of the famine.

Dylan Quinnell, from Oxfam Australia, told us about the children whose white, bleached hair easily gave away their malnutrition. He suggested that the complex intersection of drought and conflict has increased the severity of famine in the region, and spoke about ingenious ways of combatting issues felt on the ground such as supplying canoes to people living in swamp lands to enable them to get around and access food.

We also heard from the CEO of Caritas Australia, Paul O’Callaghan. Paul visited the famine-affected region of Kenya earlier this year, and spoke of his concern; why are people not speaking about the famine? Why must a few dedicated journalists work so hard to get mention of the issue in the papers? He highlighted the need to continue our advocacy efforts – raising public awareness and speaking to our parliamentarians.

Where are we now?

One of the central parts of this campaign is the annual RESULTS Study Tour; a delegation of volunteers who are travelling to Canberra between the 12th and 15th of August to speak with parliamentarians from all sides of politics in Parliament House.

We have a delegation of 15 people for the tour, and have so far booked 29 meetings. We will be asking for two things:

  1. Increased humanitarian aid to help relieve the effects of the famine. Australia has donated $68 million so far, but this is not enough. We are asking our parliamentarians to ‘step up to the plate’ and pledge to make it known that their constituents care. We are asking for an additional $33 million be sent to help relieve the famine.
  2. That the aid budget is restored, and recent cuts are reversed. Without long lasting and effective programs, people living in the poorest parts of the world are not able to protect themselves against the devastating effects of conflict or disaster. We need to invest in robust, strong health systems and governance to ensure that famines like this do not happen again. Let’s prevent the preventable.

What can you do?

Even if you’re not joining us on the Study Tour, there are a number of things you can do to help!

  1. Contact your MP! Even if you’re not coming to Canberra, you can book a meeting in your electorate. If you need help, we have a meeting template that you can use, just contact us to get it!
  2. Write to the media! Check out our resources for more information, but essentially, write a letter to the editor asking why this isn’t being covered in the paper, or in response to a relevant article. If enough people start doing this, it may be enough to get the attention the famine deserves! To help locate these ‘relevant articles’, you can join our letter writing team here. If you have more time, get into contact and we can help you write an oped!
  3. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. We will be hosting ‘Facebook Live’ events throughout the Study Tour, and posting pictures and information about the meetings as we go. We will also be hosting a post-study tour info session on Facebook on Monday the 21st of August at 7pm AEST where you can ask questions of our attendees, and learn some useful advocacy tips.
  4. Post on social media using hashtags #Voices4RESULTS or #zerohunger. Ask people to share your post.
  5. If you’re not involved yet, you can apply to join your local RESULTS group here.

So to get involved, ask questions, or access your resources, email us at info@results.org.au or have a look around www.results.org.au.