News / Africa

Aid Groups Criticize US Response to East Africa Drought

A woman carrying her baby queues for food in a camp established by the Somali Transitional Federal Government for the internally displaced people in Mogadishu.
A woman carrying her baby queues for food in a camp established by the Somali Transitional Federal Government for the internally displaced people in Mogadishu.
Nico Colombant

While the U.S. government has increased its aid to help those affected by the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, aid groups have criticized the slow response, as well as anti-terrorist laws which they say are impeding help to victims in the worst affected areas of Somalia.

Aid agencies have criticized the United States and other Western governments for failing to respond quickly enough to the more than 10 million people in need in drought-ravaged areas of the Horn of Africa.  The worsening drought, which forecasters have warned about for months, is being described as the worst in the region in six decades.

An official for the British-based aid agency Oxfam said there has been a breakdown of the world's collective responsibility to act. Other aid activists have said that like for other hunger situations in Africa in recent years, substantial help is starting to arrive only after the disaster reaches a catastrophic scale.

Sarah Margon, with the U.S. group Center for American Progress, says major responses seem to have been triggered by a United Nations declaration that two regions in Somalia are now in a state of famine. "As the numbers come out, the word famine really starts to move people and it starts to peak the interest of the international community and the average citizen in a way that a humanitarian crisis unfortunately does not always get people active and engaged," she said.

The U.S. government announced it would give an additional $28 million in aid to Somalis, to help them both inside Somalia and in refugee camps in Kenya, bringing its aid total this year in food and emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa to $431 million.

But Jeremy Konyndyk, with the U.S.-based group Mercy Corps, says he would still like to see outside donor contributions go up. "While in absolute terms they are quite large, they are still not enough relative to the need and even they are considerably less than they were even if you go back to three years ago, when there was a lesser crisis in the Horn," he said.

Aid activists also say-long term aid efforts, including agricultural ones such as the current U.S. Feed the Future initiative, which are often touted as solutions to end hunger around the world, often get burdened in bureaucracy and lack the necessary follow through and resources to be effective.

Speaking recently, the U.S. Agency for International Development administrator, Raj Shah, said the focus was now once again on the short term. "The effort to bring agricultural development to a standard where we can eliminate food insecurity is a longer-term effort and we know that in the short term and in times of crises and calamity our ability to get food and nutrition to those who are vulnerable is going to be our first line of defense. We have seen this time and time again," he said.

On a recent visit to a Somali refugee camp in Kenya, the U.S. official blamed the al-Qaida linked Islamic insurgents al-Shabab for causing the worst effects of the drought. "A big part of why we have a famine in very specific parts of Somalia today is because of al-Shabab and ineffective governance in Somalia and a lack of humanitarian access in precisely those parts. It is no accident that the specific geographies that have been declared by the international community as an official famine are those areas where humanitarian actors from all parts of the world simply have not been allowed to have access to the population," he said.

Leaders of al-Shabab have said the declaration of famine in areas under their control is false propaganda meant to cause the displacement of populations.  

An al-Shabab spokesman said the militants will only allow increased aid from foreign agencies currently working in its strongholds, not from organizations it has banned since 2009.  But he did not specify which organizations.  The Somali government has condemned the al-Shabab policy.   

Aid activists say U.S. laws preventing government money from being spent on projects which could materially benefit a listed terrorist organization such as al-Shabab have also undermined the longer-term humanitarian response to the current two-year drought.

While the Treasury rules took effect in 2009, U.S. aid to Somalia, at $237 million in 2008, dropped to $99 million in 2009 and to $28 million in 2010.

U.S. based Horn of Africa expert J. Peter Pham says al-Shabab is not a monolithic organization and that there should be a loosening of the rules to be able to deal with some of the less radical militias. "I think the sanctions have a kind of a self-censoring incentive on aid organizations. So as a result aid is not flowing to where the people are. They are flowing to certain centers and people have to walk sometimes days to get there and not everyone unfortunately makes it," he said.

Aid activists have called for the issue to be taken up at the U.N. Security Council so that the urgent need to save lives in al-Shabab controlled areas becomes a main priority. A number of aid organizations have expressed safety concerns about working in areas the militants control.

U.S. officials have said they have had no contact with al-Shabab. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson has also stressed the U.S. government will not allow food that is intended for victims to be siphoned off by an international terrorist group.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid