Fleeing armed groups — the bombings and violence, the kidnappings of children and women — most families have run with nothing. The lucky ones take a goat or a sheep to trade later for their survival. It’s extremely hot here, dry as sunbaked stones. Suicide bombings happen daily. And I find even my own movement limited by the insecurity everywhere. As I speak with widows, their husbands killed in village attacks, I can’t help but notice how they constantly look over their shoulders to account for their children. They turn their eyes back to me, full of desperation. They have little water, less food, no medical services and a hut that is anything but the shelter they so critically need.

I always wonder when the humanitarian work I do will make me hardened to the human horror and devastation I encounter from day to day. It never happens.

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A woman from Nigeria finds refuge in Nguel Kolo, a village in Eastern Niger. Frederic Courbet/CARE

Djuweratou Hassan

Djuweratou Hassan, 40, comes from a village near Damassak in northern Nigeria. She lost a leg after a snake bit her when she was a child. Her husband died long ago. When armed groups attacked her village, she fled with her children on the back of a donkey cart. Frederic Courbet/CARE

Every time I speak with survivors of war, conflict, climate change and other disasters — mothers desperate to feed their children, teenagers who see no future, men hopeless to provide for their families — I walk away heavy-hearted, yet determined to stand with them. I feel that again with Hamisu. I picture his father’s empty hands, his mother’s eyes full of tears. And I hear his plea: “Please help.” Now more than ever, as war and conflict rage, as famine conditions threaten 20 million people across Africa, we need more funding, not less, to meet the needs of families like Hamisu’s — to answer their pleas: “Please help.” Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed significant cuts to U.S. foreign assistance — just when the world’s humanitarian needs are so immense. This is not the time to step aside. It’s the time to step up.

A famine already was declared in South Sudan, and even though that declaration has been lifted, the situation is just as bad, if not worse. Three other countries — Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria — teeter on the brink of famine, millions of their people on the edge of starvation. U.S. foreign assistance — combined with the generosity of donors like those of you reading right now — saves lives, and meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable is exactly what we must do. But doing so is also wise, because U.S. foreign assistance helps stabilize families, communities and nations, and that is good for U.S. national security. There is every reason in the world to expand our humanitarian efforts around the globe — none greater than 18-year-old Hamisu and his father’s empty hands.
Tamara Shukakidze is CARE’s deputy director for Emergency and Humanitarian Assistance