- 05 Jul 22
"We cannot let famine in the Horn of Africa slip down and off the agenda of those who have most to give, such as the participants at the G7," the President states in the video.
President Michael D. Higgins has called for a "immediate response from all of us in the global community", as the crisis in the Horn of Africa intensifies.
The speech, which originally appeared as an opinion piece in The Irish Times last week, was shared on the President's official YouTube channel.
In the days since the President's video was shared online, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it was "scaling up its operations in eastern Africa as the region faces acute food insecurity caused by conflict, extreme weather events – including the worst drought in 40 years – induced by climate change, rising international food and fuel prices and the impact of the pandemic."
WHO went on to note that over 80 million people in the eastern African region are "food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families", stating that "acute malnutrition is high, especially among children."
As part of his speech, President Michael D. Higgins recalled his own trip to Somalia and Kenya in 1992 – at the time of a major famine in Somalia, during which an estimated 220,000–300,000 people died.
In 1992, Higgins wrote about his trip as part of his column for Hot Press – available to read in full here.
"There is no experience I have had, in any refugee camp, in any war zone, that could have prepared me for the scale of horror that is Somalia," he wrote at the time.
"...everyday, I thought of the weapons-producing and selling countries, of those who are still selling instruments of death into Africa and the South of the planet in general," he continued. "I thought too, of the absence of the international media. There was just one North American and one British crew working in Somalia, where 1.5 million people are starving and 2.5 million affected by the famine out of a population of 7.6 million.
"How different it was to the Gulf War when camera crews competed to bring us pictures of every single rocket as it was launched. How true indeed that Somalia's plight would be different if it was an oil rich country."
In his recent speech – shared 30 years after his trip to Somalia and Kenya – the President stressed that "we cannot let famine in the Horn of Africa slip down and off the agenda of those who have most to give, such as the participants at the G7."
"Smaller countries have been giving a lead in response to the tragically very poorly supported $4.6 billion needed now," he resumed. "For example, Ireland is the seventh-largest contributor to the United Nations' Central Emergency Response Fund. It is a global catastrophe which threatens – indeed, which has arrived. A global response is needed now, if our words our words of before, 'it must be never again', are to carry the ring of authenticity. Each day of delay on action is costing lives. Globally, we have the capacity to anticipate and prevent regional and global famines. Give meaning to those words 'never again'. The transformation we need is possible – is overdue. This crisis requires an immediate response from all of us in the global community."
Watch President Michael D. Higgins' full speech below – and read his 1992 account of his trip to Somalia and Kenya here: