7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018

World failed Somalia...

SOMETIMES defining a situation properly merits some sort of action. It took an estimated 10 million people in East Africa, including half the population of Somalia, to be severely malnourished before the United Nations declared famine in two southern regions of the country.

What possible effects such an announcement could have is anybody's guess.

Does it somehow legitimise to the international community that the Somalis are in real need of food and haven't been arbitrarily dying all along?

The first famine of the 21st century wasn't a horrible surprise sprung on the world, it has been some years in the making.

Poor rains since last year and the increasing desertification of the Horn of Africa have turned the region into a dustbowl.

Fourteen years ago, at a special convention of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in New York, it came to light that 73 per cent of dry lands in Africa used for agricultural purposes had been degraded.

The current crisis is in part the result of the Sahara desert's continued encroachment into the East African countries, a process that has turned these regions arid.

The growth of lawlessness and extremism that followed Somalia's war with Ethiopia in 1991 has devastated the country.

The Islamist militant group Al Shabab, which has allied with Al Qaeda, has turned one of Africa's glamorous capitals Mogadishu into a war zone.

The group has been responsible for carrying out terror attacks in Uganda and has terrorised its own people through Taliban-style punishments.

With the aim of toppling the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) formed after the war and imposing its version of the Sharia law on the country, the group has effectively stopped aid from reaching the people affected by the famine.

Another offshoot of the crisis is the growing recruitment of children to fight by both pro-TGF groups and Al Shabab.

In an Amnesty International video, a child soldier recounts that he had grown up playing with guns and would willingly take part in a war if he had to.

The agrarian crisis in Somalia has now left 310,000 people malnourished and some 166,000 have fled the country.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said $1.6bn in aid is needed and the country requires $300m to get through the next two months.

So far, the US has pledged $28m in emergency aid, while the UK committed $84m for famine aid.

British charities such as Oxfam have been campaigning to bring the world's attention to what is called the worst agrarian crisis in the world at the moment.

The famine in Ethiopia in the 1990s got global attention and concerts by charity group Band Aid famously raised funds for the affected.

Two decades later, poverty has not yet been made history and repeated calls for aid have largely been ignored.

Maybe, there's a problem with the definition of the word famine.

The UN says famine can only be declared when two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die of hunger every day.

Now that the world community has got its statistics right, I suppose we can expect some real action.

Somalia has often been called as the world's first failed state, but on hindsight, it's we who failed them.

Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai.

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