Hunger, Health, and Compassion

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The current hunger crisis, the largest humanitarian crisis in UN history, encompasses South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, and northeastern Nigeria. All are experiencing severe droughts, yet the disaster’s primary drivers are armed conflicts and outright war. Health risks extend beyond starvation, including waterborne illness such as cholera. The famine’s origins and obstacles to addressing it vary in each country, though the basic storyline is shared: ineffective, unaccountable, or malevolent political leadership; violence and conflict; and a dearth of humanitarian funding.

Tillerson’s claim that the United States provides a major share of disaster assistance is true, but disingenuous. In 2016, the World Food Program fell more than $2 billion short of the $8.6 billion it required. Other countries need to step up, but so does the United States. US disaster assistance falls far short of most wealthy countries. The major donor nations contributed an average of 0.30% of their gross national income (GNI) to official development assistance in 2015. Nineteen countries provided more than the 0.17% of GNI that the United States contributed—a level less than one-fourth the long-standing 0.7% UN target.

In this article, I propose innovative strategies for humanitarian financing.

Publication Citation

317(19) JAMA 1939-40 (2017)