We are currently living through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since 1945, according to Stephen O’Brien, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator. UN agencies have found that famine in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen has put over 20 million lives at risk, and more than 1.4 million children are at risk of death from severe malnutrition.
In Somalia, 6 million people are in need of assistance and, according to UN agencies, 550 Somalians have died of cholera in 2017, a figure aid agencies claim is “grossly underreported.” More than 25,000 Somalians currently have the disease, with the number to increase to 50,000 by the end of the year, according to WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. “We are on the brink of a massive catastrophe in Somalia with the death of three quarters of the country’s livestock, a rapid increase of children suffering severe malnutrition and the depletion of water stores in dozens of communities,” said the Somalian Director of Save The Children, Hassan Saadi Noor.
The source of Somalia’s humanitarian problems is their devastatingly long civil war, which began in 1991 when dictator Mohammed Siad Barre fell from power due to the capture of Mogadishu by rebel forces. Since then, a power struggle has existed between rivalling clans. Amid the instability, terrorist group Al-Shabaab has gained clout in the region, controlling many parts of the Somalian countryside. Al-Shabaab received international attention in 2013 when they conducted a terrorist attack in a shopping centre in Nairobi, killing 68 people.
Al-Shabaab has recently been forced out of major towns by peacekeepers backed by US airpower, however, power struggles continue to exist in surrounding villages.
The worst humanitarian conditions exist in Southern Somalia, where Al-Shabaab holds a significant amount of territory and international humanitarian organizations are banned. Jason Burke, from the Guardian, reported that in early April, “two convoys of aid workers were hit by roadside bombs in Mogadishu, in the latest of hundreds of such attacks on humanitarians across the country.”
Unfortunately, the situation in Somalia is reflective of a wider problem in Africa and the Middle East. Interstate conflicts in Yemen, Nigeria, and South Sudan share very similar narratives to Somalia’s.
The UN needs $4.4 billion by March to help 20 million people in Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, and South Sudan. However, only $90 million had been donated as of February 2017. The international community must act to solve this growing problem.
Though the load does not rest solely on the USA’s shoulders, the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to foreign aid will not help. Whether Trump likes it or not, the Western world looks to the USA for leadership on these issues, therefore, cutting aid amid the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since 1945 may just give license to other countries to do the same.
“I’ve never seen this kind of threat to what otherwise has been a bipartisan consensus that food aid and humanitarian assistance programs are morally essential and critical to our security,” said former Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Feldstein.
Actions also need to be taken against Al-Shabaab and other powerful terrorist groups in the region. In early March 2017, the Pentagon announced that the USA had launched airstrikes against Al-Shabaab, killing 150 fighters. According to Vox, “more people were killed in this one strike than were killed in roughly eight years of drone strikes in Somalia.” The attack was largely a response to intelligence indicating that Al-Shabaab forces were planning an imminent attack on US soldiers.
With that said, it is imperative that Trump and other world leaders shine a light on this uniquely important issue.
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