News / Africa

US Accused of Politicizing Somalia Famine Aid

Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Women and Children holding their pink tickets queue for the evening meal at the Dollo Ado transit center in Ethiopia, October 26, 2011.
Nico Colombant

The U.S. government is defending itself against new accusations that it has politicized aid to victims of Somalia’s ongoing famine, as well as failed to help the long-term situation in the conflict-wracked country.  U.S. officials blame the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab group for restricting outside aid.

While the United States has been one of the world’s leading donors in trying to help ease the effects of the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, critics are saying it has failed victims in Somalia.

Such criticism was made frequently at a forum in Washington called “Famine in the Horn: Assessing the U.S. Response.”

Bronwyn Burton is with the Atlantic Council. “There are still 750,000 people who still really need help urgently in Somalia or they are going to die and most of them are women and children, tiny babies who absolutely no role in the conflict that we are witnessing in Somalia," said Burton. "The thing I would like to point out here is that while we have important interests that are not humanitarian interests in the country, we in the United States have done a very poor job of managing those interests and balancing them against the humanitarian needs of the Somali people.”

Burton pointed out that the United States gave more money to Somalia in humanitarian assistance in 2008 when there was no famine, than in 2011 when there is a famine, but when al-Shabab controls lots of territory.

She called on the U.S. Africa military command, Africom, to play a role in helping deliver food in areas with security challenges.

Other criticism came from John Norris, from the Center for American Progress.  Norris said if the United States is really serious about helping people in Somalia, it should be serious about diplomatic efforts and figuring out a long-term solution. He said lots of money has been spent on humanitarian endeavors in perpetually unstable Somalia since the early 1990s, to little effect.

“How do we get off this hamster wheel of perpetual crisis and why are we in a position 20 years after Somalia was dominating headlines to find ourselves in a situation that is every bit if not more dire," said Norris. "I think that is because we have had a very hard time thinking down the chess board. We have been very willing as a country to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, billions of dollars in responding to Somalia but if you look at the amount of high-level diplomacy that has been directed toward it, it is a relative pittance.”

A representative for the U.S. government Nancy Lindborg, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, vigorously defended U.S. aid efforts, and said the problem was access to al-Shabab areas, not resources.

She said famine was being averted in other parts of Somalia, as well as Kenya and Ethiopia, because of cooperative authorities there and the success of development projects.

The U.S official wanted to focus on some of the positives, and said this crisis showed more and more countries and diverse organizations were now helping in such situations.

“More and more countries step up to this role of being humanitarian responders," said Lindborg. "We have the opportunity to help that feel more inclusive and cooperative. And so as you see, more Islamic groups and a huge Turkish response in Somalia, there is an opportunity to deepen our ways to cooperate together and use the imperative that they can bring to offer access.”

Panelists did agree ineffective security at refugee camps for civilians, and especially women, fleeing drought conditions, was a major concern. They also said the current Kenyan military operations into Somalia could worsen the immediate plight of drought victims in al-Shabab controlled areas.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia earlier this month following a series of cross-border kidnappings blamed on al-Shabab.

The radical Islamic group has waged a four-year campaign against Somalia’s United Nations and U.S.-backed government, which is widely viewed as corrupt and ineffective. Al-Shabab controls most of central and southern Somalia, including the only areas declared by the United Nations to be experiencing famine in the drought-ravaged Horn of Africa.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid