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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs