Famine in the Horn of Africa, again.
The U.N. is currently calling it the “worst humanitarian disaster in the world.”
Writing for al-Jazeera, economist Jeffrey Sachs reviewed the immediate causes of the crisis: Two years of failed rains, and colonial-era political boundaries that both divide and restrict the movements of traditionally pastoral communities.
Sachs reviews other contributing factors as well: the increasing instability of climate change, high fertility rates in the absence of contraception and family planning, widespread poverty and political instability.
The U.S. of course blames the political instability on — what else — Islamic “terrorist” groups like al-Shabaab, who are the target of and justification for black site torture prisons, drone strikes and proxy armed groups in Somalia.
Al-Shabbab, which has just lifted its ban on Western aid groups in the face of the severity of the famine, has been the target of U.S. airstrikes and proxy attacks for years. In a WGP post from May 2008, I tried to put a couple of these air strikes in context:
These bombings are directed at members of al-Shabaab, which is the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union who briefly controlled much of Somalia in 2006 — and who had brought relative peace and stability to the chaotic yet oil rich nation — before they were forced from power by U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops. (Christian Ethiopia is a historic enemy of Somalia, which is almost entirely Sunni Muslim.)
In that same three year old post, it was already clear how the U.S. proxy war against Somalia contributed to the threat of widespread famine:
The U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion has contributed to a humanitarian crisis the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as “catastrophic”. Over a million people have been made internal refugees, and the U.N warned that 3.5. million Somalis — nearly half the country’s population — face famine. Moreover, Amnesty International has collected many accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian troops.
Here is a recent episode of al-Jazeera’s Inside Story that focuses on the rather facile question, “Are the problems in the Horn of Africa down to nature, or are people and politics to blame?”
Khadija O. Ali, a former member of the Somali Transitional National Parliament, laments the lack of women in Somali government as “women and children are the primary victims of ongoing conflict and deepening drought and famine.”
See here for a story about how U.S. universities are participating in an “African Land Grab”.
See here for the darker side of the World Food Program’s efforts in Somalia.