News / Africa

Somalia Famine Relief Poses Challenges for International Community

Former US ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso David Shinn says logistics are only part of the problem

Somalis displaced by drought wait to receive food in their makeshift camp in Mogadishu, July 23, 2011
Somalis displaced by drought wait to receive food in their makeshift camp in Mogadishu, July 23, 2011
William Eagle

The United Nations has urged “massive” action to save millions of people in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region.  One challenge for the international community is logistical – getting enough food to areas that need it as soon as possible.

“There are fairly good food stores in certain areas that can be brought to the scene immediately,” said David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Shinn is currently an adjunct professor of International Affairs at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

“The problem is over the longer term where more food is going to be required than I think was originally envisaged,” he said.  “It will be necessary to identify and transport to the region significantly larger quantities of food to ensure famine does not extend around the area. “

More challenging is getting food to areas of Somalia held by the Islamic militant group al-Shabab. According to the United Nations, the group controls more than 80 percent of southern areas where there are 500,000 malnourished children.

Two regions in southern Somalia are hit by famine: Bakool and Lower Shabelle
Two regions in southern Somalia are hit by famine: Bakool and Lower Shabelle

Al-Shabab has had a rocky rapport with aid agencies. Last year, it kicked out Western aid groups that refused to meet several demands, including a ban on women operating on the ground. Earlier this month, militants said they would allow groups to return to feed those affected by drought. Then, late last week, the group changed its mind, and denied there is famine in Somalia.

Going against policy

Another challenge is the U.S. policy that bans any type of material support to the rebels, including “taxes” imposed on relief agencies.

“There was a certain willingness by parts of the international community to ‘wink and nod’ if they felt the conditions by al-Shabab were not that onerous.  The U.S. was less willing to do that. It has declared al-Shabab to be a terrorist organization and it has threatened the security of the U.S. So, [the U.S. government] did not want to be in a position of directly or indirectly supporting al-Shabab. It was taking the lead on this issue,” said Shinn.

Security is also an issue, though Shinn rejects introducing any U.N. or AU troops into the area, a move “which could create a bigger problem than the one that already exists there.”

The answer may lie in part with the rebels.

“The best solution,” said Shinn, “is to extract a commitment [from al-Shabab] that there are no conditions. In the interest of keeping Somalis alive, which would seem to be in their interest, too, [the rebels should allow] the international aid agencies and the NGOs to go in to feed Somalis and be left alone."

Shinn said a failure to allow humanitarian relief “makes them look bad as if they have no ability to control events in the territory they have seized.” He said it would also likely mean more Somali refugees heading for Dadaab and other camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Political will

Oxfam has accused the international community of “willful neglect” in its response to the famine. The aid and development group says the spreading drought and famine had been anticipated for months, but that donors are $800 million behind in their commitments to fight the drought.

A woman sits with her child at a local hospital to receive treatment for malnutrition at the border town of Dadaab, Kenya, Saturday, July 23, 2011
A woman sits with her child at a local hospital to receive treatment for malnutrition at the border town of Dadaab, Kenya, Saturday, July 23, 2011

But Shinn said the public doesn’t understand the logistics involved in moving large quantities of food on short notice through a long supply chain.

“It is very easy,” he said, “to sit back and pontificate about what’s required and when it’s required, but it’s not always easy to do that… and these are fairly fast-moving events. Even though this problem has been known for months, I don’t think the magnitude was known earlier on and the international community may have been caught off guard.”

On Monday, U.N. agencies pressed for $1.6 billion in aid for East Africa over the next year, with over a fourth of that to be delivered within three months.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an additional $28 million in humanitarian aid to Somalis suffering from hunger.  That comes on top of $431 million in U.S. emergency assistance to the Horn this year.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid