Thursday, July 21, 2011

Analysts say Somali war helped turn drought into famine

Somalia: The horror of famine in a failed state

From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Famine is raging in the failed state of Somalia.
Across the parched Horn of Africa, more than 10 million are struggling amid dying cattle and fields baked into desert with the worst drought in more than a half-century.
The rising death toll has triggered a “declaration” of a famine by the United Nations, but the announcement only pertains to southern Somalia, a largely ungoverned region that is under the sway of ruthless Islamic groups, including Al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated group of jihadists.

“We no longer see these really big food crisis too often, but in failed states they become enormous problems,” said Kevin McCort, president of CARE Canada, which runs the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp just over the Kenyan border. It is now the world’s largest single concentration of refugees, temporary haven to 367,000 Somalis. Every day another 1,500 stagger in. Thousands more reach other camps.
To date, death rates have topped “famine” criteria only in areas of southern Somalia, Bakool and Lower Shabelle, but the entire southern half of the country is likely to face famine in the next few weeks. More than half of Somalia’s 7.5-million people face a food crisis “among these 3.2 million people need immediate, lifesaving,” according to the Famine Early Warning Network.
While aid agencies have been warning for months that a crisis was looming, Wednesday’s UN declaration put Somalia’s long nightmare in the global media spotlight again.
“Somalia is facing its worst food-security crisis in the last 20 years,” said Mark Bowden, the UN’s chief of humanitarian aid to Somalia. The “desperate situation requires urgent action to save lives,” he said, warning that “it’s likely that conditions will deteriorate further in six months.”
Perhaps belatedly, Al-Shabab said it was lifting its ban on allowing foreign-aid agencies into strife-torn Somalia. The Islamists, deeply suspicious of foreigners and especially Westerners, have banned aid agencies for more than a year. Others have pulled out after facing extortion and attacks. Ever since a failed UN-peacemaking effort of the early 1990s, the east African state has been largely ruled by a patchwork of warlords and armed militias. The armed intervention by several nations – including Canada – was intended to help cope with a famine but ended in blood and recriminations.Read more...

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