A combination of factors are to blame for the famine in Somalia, says Dr. Sadia Ali Aden, a Somali-born physician who is also a human rights activist and fundraiser. She says natural and external factors are only partial contributors to the tragedy.
Other equally important factors, she says, are “Al-Shabab’s strict conditions for food aid delivery the incompetence [of Somala’s] Transitional Federal Government and lack of resources to help the affected population, and international community inaction in the face of a deteriorating situation.”
Aden is actively involved in local fundraising efforts to help famine victims in her home country. She says the famine has helped create a common purpose among Somalis around the world.
“The Somali Diaspora members have been reaching out to all those who could help alleviate this human tragedy,” Aden says. “There are number of Somali organizations registered here in the U.S. that are effective and providing humanitarian service.”
Women and children queue to receive food at a World Food Program distribution center in Mogadishu.
The Somali activist says by and large, these organizations have proven more effective than their “much larger, much costly international counterparts.”
On the question of international assistance, Aden says while Somalis are grateful to the U.N. for alerting donor nations on the “urgency of this matter,” she wishes the appeal was made much earlier.
“If these alarm bells were sounded two years ago,” the activist says, “many lives could have been saved.” She says letting the human tragedy go unattended until now is a “moral disgrace.”
Aden criticizes governments in the region for failing to pursue policies that help prevent famine. She says for most of these governments, their main focus is amassing weapons and staying in power.
“The majority of these (governments) are dictatorships which are really concerned about defeating the enemy on the other side and much less on alleviating the suffering of the oppressed, the hungry and the sick,” she says.
The human rights activist said the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia merely prolonged the misery of the Somali people.
“Left alone,” she says, “the Islamic Courts [government] brought six months of peace, and could have been used as a model to build on because that was the first time Somalis saw a semblance of peace in fifteen years.”
Aden says the governments in the region need to spend more time on caring for the people “instead of worrying about how to stay in power and sustain what they have.”