News / Africa

    Senate Panel Examines US Aid Efforts to Famine Victims in Horn of Africa

    Malnourished children from southern Somalia on a bed at Bandar hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 1, 2011
    Malnourished children from southern Somalia on a bed at Bandar hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, August 1, 2011
    Cindy Saine

    A U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday to examine ways to respond to the worst drought and famine in the Horn of Africa in 60 years.  As Experts and lawmakers welcomed an announcement by the State Department that the United States is easing anti-terrorism financial sanctions against the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to the region.

    Related video by Laurel Bowman


    Somalia is at the center of the drought and famine crisis.  The United Nations says more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of food aid.  And the world body has declared a famine in three new areas of Somalia.

    Experts testifying at the African Affairs Subcommittee hearing said it is hard to fathom the scope of the crisis, which is spreading throughout the Horn of Africa.

    Nancy Lindborg is with the U.S. Agency for International Development:

    “We estimate that in the last 90 days, 29,000 Somali children have died," said Lindborg. "This is nearly four percent of the children in southern Somalia.”

    Relief group leaders testifying at the hearing said more money for food aid is desperately needed from private individuals and governments, and they encouraged President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to encourage people to give to those in need in Somalia and other parts of the Horn of Africa.

    One of the biggest obstacles to providing aid to Somalia has been violent action by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabaab, which has dictated which aid groups are allowed in and demanded fees from relief groups trying to deliver food and water to those in need.  Sixty percent of those needing supplies in Somalia are in al-Shabaab-controlled territory.

    The crisis has forced many Somalis to flee to neighboring countries like Kenya and Ethiopia or for areas of Somalia controlled by the government, where they can receive food aid.  But senior U.S. government officials and private experts told the panel that al-Shabaab is holding people against their will, preventing them from fleeing to areas where they can get food.

    Donald Yamamoto is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State with the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department:

    “Right now as an example, if you see the internally-displaced people right now, you are having about 100,000 or so south of Mogadishu, you are having at a rate of 1,000 a day going into those areas, you have al-Shabaab troops and shooters going into the areas and targeting refugees," said Yamamoto.

    Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council research group agreed that al-Shabaab is partly responsible for the famine:

    “I have reports from sources in the last 24 hours of at least three holding areas in lower Shabelle, where al-Shabaab forces are either using force or the threat there of to keep displaced people from leaving the territory and finding help," said Pham.

    Pham said al-Shabaab draws much of its funding from cutting down trees to produce charcoal, which it then exports to the Persian Gulf.  This worsens the desertification problem.  Asked why the terrorist group is holding Somalis and preventing them from fleeing, Pham said its leaders might be speculating that where there are starving people, aid will eventually come, and that they could get part of it.

    The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that it is easing anti-terrorist financial sanctions against al-Shabaab to increase the flow of humanitarian aid.  Donald Yamamoto said that as long as relief groups engage in a “good faith” effort to ensure that aid goes to the needy and not to terrorists, relief groups will not have to worry about prosecution under Treasury Department regulations.

    Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the hearing agreed that concerns about funds being extorted by al-Shabaab are overshadowed by the need to prevent massive famine and deaths.

    Republican Senator Johnny Isakson put it this way:

    “Well, I wanted to be quite clear," said Isakson. "I understand is important that the [Obama] administration and our country do everything they can to prohibit U.S. aid getting into terrorist hands, and that is one of the reasons for some of the restrictions.  But when you do reach a crisis point in a humanitarian problem like this, it seems like there ought to be expedited procedures, or else the people you are trying to help are going to be dead.”

    Al-Shabaab was designated a terrorist group by the United States in 2008.  U.S. officials have expressed concern about the group recruiting Americans, particularly in Somali communities in the midwestern state of Minnesota.  Efforts by al-Shabaab to recruit and radicalize Muslim Americans were the focus of a recent hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security.  

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora