There is a severe drought in Somalia, threatening not only crop output and livestock, but human life too. Over one hundred died last week due to hunger, and almost half of the country is facing food shortages. Well over five million people are at risk of hunger and starvation.
Somalia is no stranger to famine. According to CNN, between 2010-2012, 258,000 people died there due to hunger.
Al Jazeera explains how the world classifies famine:
“famine exists when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population”
Even if Somalia avoids famine this time, periods of hunger mean long term problems for citizens’ health.
Why is Somalia facing famine? The world has enough food – look at most grocery stores in the west and you have aisles full of endless choices. But, hunger happens in wealthy countries like the US too. Famine, therefore, is not to be blamed solely on drought. Rather, it is also an effect of misguided priorities and political strife.
From the LA Times:
“The United Nations and humanitarian agencies have launched an $864 million appeal to help Somalis, but the drought’s reach to many African countries has caused the World Food Program to cut aid rations. By December, the appeal was 47% funded.
In 2011, Shabab, designated a terrorist group by the U.S., controlled much of Somalia, complicating aid efforts. In some cases the group refused to let people leave their villages, especially men of fighting age, who were often forcibly drafted.
Another complication was confusion on whether aid organizations trying to get food into territory controlled by the extremist group could be sanctioned by the U.S. for cooperating with designated terrorists.”
Sadly, political strife has been present in Somalia for decades. The US military has been involved in bombing campaigns there since the early 1990s. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if countries invested as much in diplomacy, education, healthcare, and environmental conservation as they do in sophisticated weapons systems?
photo: public domain, Voice of America, 2005 famine in Niger