News / Africa

    Instability Helped Create Famine in Somalia, says Former USAID Official

    Andrew Natsios acknowledges the role of erratic rainfall, crop failure and increased food prices

    Internally displaced Somali women queue to receive food-aid rations at a distribution center, in an IDP camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 26, 2011
    Internally displaced Somali women queue to receive food-aid rations at a distribution center, in an IDP camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu, July 26, 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Politics plays a pivotal role in the onset of Somalia’s famine, say observers.

    Andrew Natsios, a former head of the United States Agency for International Development [USAID], acknowledges the role of erratic rainfall and drought, crop failure and increased food prices.

    No support for agriculture

    But politics, or in Somalia’s case, a lack of a functioning political system, has likely made a bad situation even worse.

    “If there was simply a crop failure and there was a competent government in the country,” said Natsios, “(it) can provide food to the people who are affected as they do in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania…”

    The government is not able to provide support for farmers or for food production.

    Somalia is headed by a Transitional Federal Government with powers limited to parts of the capital Mogadishu.  The rest of the country is governed either by the radical Islamic group al-Shabab or by local clans.

    Security, and expanding the government’s reach, are the most important issues facing the TFG.

    Recently, Islamic militants have killed officials in a bid to destabilize the government.  They say famine is only political rhetoric by the transitional government and the West.  Humanitarian assistance has been hampered by the failure of al-Shabab to ensure the safety of relief workers, who have been kidnapped and killed.

    Last year, Al-Shabab kicked out aid agencies that refused to follow its directives, which banned women aid workers.

    The politics of hunger

    The last famine to hit Somalia came in 1992 on the heels of the overthrow of the country’s last president Siad Barre, with over quarter of a million people killed in the ensuing crisis.

    “A civil war,” said Natsios, is what caused the drought to turn into a famine that killed so many people…It was a terrible famine. I remember it very disctinctly.”

    Warlords that took control of the country after the fall of Barre have failed to consolidate their power.

    “Since Barre’s collapse,” said Natsios, “there has been no functioning national government.  There have been attempts to create one, but they have failed.”

    He said politics also exacerbated hunger in at least two other countries, including Sudan.  Natsios said during that country’s long civil war, Khartoum tried to prevent food from reaching the south.   In Asia, Pyongyang’s policies led to famine in North Korea, a crisis chronicled by Natsios in a book on the topic.

    After almost two decades of civil war, Somalia is now suffering one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The United Nations estimates that more than three million people are in urgent need of food -- almost half the population.

    Last week, the United Nations declared famine in two areas of Somalia. Experts and humanitarian organizations agree that the word is not to be used lightly. The U.N. has a list of conditions that must be present in a crisis before it may be called “famine.”  Among them:  malnutrition rates exceeding 30 percent and more than two people per 10,000 people are dying each day.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora