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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs