Somalia: A 'Manmade' Famine

It is no news that Somalia is undergoing a devastating famine that is suffocating the country and stealing the lives of thousands of men, women, and children.

With over 29,000 children dead, and the fact that the situation is not slated to get better any time soon, world leaders and policy analysts are now addressing critical questions as to what really created this famine, and what should be done to stop it and prevent it from happening again.

Members of the international community met yesterday in the second conference on the famine in a month to address these crucial questions.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) used the conference to call for sustainable aid on Thursday arguing that with modern day resources and technology the consistent crisis in the region should “shame the world.”

Jacques Diouf of the Rome-based FAO argued at the conference yesterday, “The required funding is lacking. If governments and their donor partners do not invest now, the appalling famine we are not struggling to redress will return to shame the international community yet again.”

World Food Program director Sheila Sisulu said, “We must seize this opportunity to break the cycle of food insecurity.”

These comments come just days after Kenya Wolfgang Fengler, the lead economist for the World Bank argued that the Somalia famine had been “manmade.”

She told Reuters in a recent telephone interview, “Drought has occurred over and again, but you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine.”

Indeed, it is the lack of urgent action taken by the international community to resolve this crisis before it began, as well as the combination of no real leadership in the country. These issues mixed with the volatile and powerful al-Qaida affiliated Al-Shabab, and high food prices and low food stocks, are causing the magnitude and depth of this crisis.

Alex Perry of put the drought in the Horn of Africa in perspective by relating it to the current record-breaking drought in the United States that is hitting the southern state of Texas. He said, “The difference between a drought and a famine is down to man. Texas is in the middle of its worst drought on record right now but cowboys aren’t starving.”

The reality is that now Somalia is facing a widespread and multifaceted problem with tens of thousands of people malnourished and starving to death, and people in the overcrowded Mogadishu camps are facing epidemic levels of cholera, measles, and malaria.

Meanwhile, desperately needed aid is being stolen from right under aid agencies and sold back to people that can't afford it in Somalia's markets.

Commentators are urging that it is now time for good policy to empower the Somali people to fend off starvation and violence, and rebuild their broken society. If not, more famines of this magnitude are likely to tear through the fabric of Somali society again and again.