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The best way to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day is to join Ireland’s devoted mission to save lives from famine. For it was once the Irish who endured the horror of food shortages during the 19th century.

There was mass starvation in Ireland during the 1840s because of the Potato Famine, the loss of their key crop to disease. The United States sent food aid to Ireland.

The former Senator Henry Clay gave a speech urging this humanitarian action: “It is not fervid eloquence, nor gilded words, that Ireland needs — but substantial food. Let us rise to the magnitude of the duty which is before us, and by a generous supply from the magnitude of our means, evince the genuineness and cordiality of our sympathy and commiseration.”

The Potato Famine, though long ago in years, is still present in the mind of the Irish. The humanitarian relief branch of their government states “The fight against hunger is central to all of Irish Aid’s work. Ireland’s own experience of hunger during the Great Famine in the 1840s still resonates today with Irish people.”

Irish Aid makes donations to the UN World Food Program to fight hunger around the globe. The hit Irish show Riverdance even raised money for hunger relief in Rwanda.

Ireland has many humanitarian heroes, including Michael Ryan of the World Food Program (WFP). Ryan lost his life in the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy last week. He worked on WFP engineering projects, helping refugees have shelter and food during harsh weather conditions.

Today you also can save lives, especially those threatened by famine in war-torn Yemen.

The WFP says 20 million Yemenis are so food insecure that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. That is 70 percent of Yemen’s population living in hunger, and children starving to death.

Children are dying of malnutrition and bombs in Yemen. The WFP is appealing for funds to help with one of the largest humanitarian operations ever. The WFP and other relief agencies are urgently trying to reach and feed hungry war victims. This requires a massive amount of funding to provide aid in a conflict zone.

According to spokesperson Annabel Symington, WFP needs 176 million dollars a month to feed the hungry in Yemen. Donations are urgently needed to save lives in Yemen.

Until a political settlement is found to end the civil war, humanitarian aid must be funded. Once there is a peace, food assistance will also be vital for reconstruction.

Geert Cappelaere of UNICEF is urging ”a massive re-investment in Yemen to help Yemeni children have a future every parent across the globe aspires to for their own children. This is the only way that Yemen can stand back on its feet. If not, Yemen will be riddled with violence and its future will hang by a thread – with disastrous consequences for children.”

We must all advocate for food and peace for Yemen. Failure to act will keep the threat of famine hanging over Yemen.

History will judge us on how we responded to the biggest emergency of our time. During the Irish Famine, the generosity of others did save people from starvation.

You can help relief agencies fighting hunger in Yemen today including:

World Food Program -www.wfp.org

Save the Children- www.savethechildren.org

Catholic Relief Services (in support of Islamic Relief Services)—www.crs.org

Mercy Corps- www.mercycorps.org

World Vision- www.worldvision.org

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William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book Ending World Hunger. His writing have been published by the NY Times, Baltimore Sun, History News Network, and many other news outlets.

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