Ground your warplanes, save the Horn of Africa

Ramzy Baroud writes:

“When you are hungry, cold is a killer, and the people here are starving and helpless.” Not many of us can relate to such a statement, but millions of ‘starving and helpless’ people throughout the Horn of Africa know fully the pain of elderly Somali mother, Batula Moalim.

Moalim, quoted by the British Telegraph, was not posing as spokesperson to the estimated 11 million people (per United Nations figures) who are currently in dire need of food. About 440,000 of those affected by the world’s “worst humanitarian disaster” dwell in a state of complete despair in Dadaab, a complex of three camps in Kenya. Imagine the fate of those not lucky enough to reach these camps, people who remain chronically lacking in resources, and, in the case of Somalia, trapped in a civil war.

All that Batula Moalim was pleading for was “plastic sheeting for shelter, as well as for food and medicine.”

It is disheartening, to say the least, when such disasters don’t represent an opportunity for political, military or other strategic gains, subsequently, enthusiasm to ‘intervene’ peters out so quickly.

UN officials from the World Food Programme (WFP) are not asking for much: $500 million to stave off the effects of what is believed to be the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. This is not an impossible feat, especially when one considers the geographic extent of the drought and creeping famine. Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya are all affected, and terribly so. Sudan and Eretria are also not far from the center of this encroaching disaster.

The Guardian reports:

Somali Islamist rebels have denied lifting a ban on certain aid groups in drought-affected areas and rejected the UN’s claim that there is a famine in the region.

The rebel group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, had said earlier this month that it would allow all humanitarian groups access to assist with the drought response. But al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage has told a local radio station that the ban on specific aid agencies, which was imposed in 2009 and 2010, still stands. At the time, the rebels accused various humanitarian groups, including the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which is expected to lead the current drought response, of damaging the local economy, being anti-Muslim, and of spying for the government.

“Those earlier banned groups are not welcome to serve in our area of control,” Rage said on Friday.

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