Starving in Somalia: Millions now at risk
The worst famine in 60 years is devastating the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, where the problem is most acute, 3.9 million people are at risk of starvation and as many as 12 million throughout the region. Some 29,000 Somali children are believed to have died in the last 90 days alone. The casualties will only grow without an urgent and generous international response.
The United Nations has made an emergency appeal for $2.4 billion but only received $1.1 billion in pledges. The United States has contributed $580 million so far and is the largest donor, as it should be. Other countries — especially in Africa and in the gulf region — also need to quickly help out. President Obama must urge them to do so.
East Africa is prone to famine, and drought has resulted in severe scarcities of food and water. The Obama administration deserves credit for acting in advance to ameliorate the effects. A warning system deployed by the United States Agency for International Development used satellite imagery and other techniques to predict the crisis last summer, according to American officials.
Since then, the agency has placed food and other supplies in Kenya, Djibouti and South Africa so they were available quickly when needed. It is also working on programs to help Somalia and other countries improve food production to avert future crises. Republicans in Congress must not be allowed to succeed in their mean-spirited and shortsighted efforts to slash food aid for next year.
Somalis are also victims of a country in chaos for 20 years. The Shabab, a ruthless extremist group linked to Al Qaeda, is battling a weak Western-backed government and until this week, blocked aid groups from delivering food to the starving.
There is no easy answer to Somali’s agonies. It has to start with saving millions now at risk of starvation, helping them improve their ability to grow their own food and finding ways to strengthen a shaky central government.
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