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Somalian Children Suffer as Politics Hinder Food Aid

Somalian Children Suffer as Politics Hinder Food AidChildren in Somalia continue to suffer needlessly from hunger as politics hinder the much needed distribution of food aid. In Somalia, it is women and children who bear the brunt of the famine. Children are susceptible to malnutrition that decreases their ability to fight off disease, while women are unable to access the services they need and carry the responsibility of caring for their families. Malnutrition is the largest contributor to global child mortality and is the cause of one-third of child deaths, which amounts to some 15 million children dying of hunger each year.  According to UNICEF, 21,000 children die everyday.

In October last year, I published the piece Are Politics to Blame for the Deaths of 30,000 Children in Somalia?  The answer to the question remains the same.  The famine was not only caused by drought and poor harvest,  but was fueled by a lack of political will.  In July, the UN declared a famine in two regions of Southern Somalia; however, Somalia continues to find itself gripped tightly by starvation in many regions.  Many believe the famine is largely a political creation, due to factions that have actively prevented food and other aid from reaching drought victims. However, the political commitment to end the problem remains difficult.  The largest areas of malnutrition and famine are centered in Southern Somalia, where a failing government sits idly by as al-Shabaab, a terrorist group with ties to al-Qa‘ida, controls parts of the country.

In November 2011, al-Shabaab banned 16 aid organizations distributing food, including several UN agencies, from their controlled areas, accusing them of “illicit activities and misconduct.” This political curve ball only served to ensure that not only would the famine continue and the death toll mount, but al-Shabaab would retain their tight reign over the region.

Somalia continues to remain in a major food crisis, classified as famine in some regions, and once again politics are impacting the distribution of food aid. Al-Shabaab has now banned aid distributions by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who was one of the last aid agencies operating in areas under al-Shabab’s control and the only agency bringing in food to those famine-hit areas on a large scale.  In a statement issued by al-Shabaab, they accused ICRC of “repeated distribution of expired food and false accusations” and thus stated that its Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies (OSAFA) “has decided to terminate the contract of ICRC permanently.”  The ICRC’s operations were formally suspended in al-Shabaab controlled areas on 12 January.  This major political move has now placed innocent Somalians in the center of what continues to look like a loosing battle; with each gain in the fight against hunger by the international community, al-Shabaab seeks to take control back.

The United Nations is gravely concerned about the latest ban, as the incoming aid had a major impact on the lives of those in the region.  The UN stated that more than 13 million people were in need of aid and some 750,000 at risk of famine at the height of the Somali drought. However,  those at risk of famine have now significantly dropped to 250,000 after the increase in both aid and seasonal rains, which allowed for the planting of crops.  The banning of the ICRC will surely be a major setback for the recovery and stability of the country.  According to Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, the move will only send those who began to escape back to a state of famine. Bowden stated that, “Over the past couple of months, ICRC distributed food to over one million Somalis in crisis; leaving so many vulnerable Somalis without food will endanger their lives and could also result in pushing a large number of people back into famine, reversing any gains made.  We appeal to all factions in Somalia to allow humanitarian actors to reach people most in need, wherever they are. (IRIN)”

While the international parties ignore or debate the key facts and realities, children continue to live in needless malnutrition. Despite reports that political will is the key strategy necessary to bring a sustainable end to child malnutrition, the solutions are not simple, especially in developing and conflict ridden countries such as Somalia (Political Will a Must to End Child Malnutrition).  The issues leading to child malnutrition are often created by a lack of political will, and yet political will is required to end this problem. Pressure for change must come not only from within Somalia, but also from the global community.

Please see my previous posts: Somalia’s Child Refugees Bear the BurdenAfrica’s Children: Famine and DroughtUN Allows for Sanctions in Somalia Against Violators of ChildrenWhen will eyes of hope cast a glance at Somalia?Will we remember Somalia? and Have We Forgotten Somalia?, for more on the plight of the country’s children.



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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