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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs