29,000 children under the age of 5 have died of famine in Somalia so far. 12 million people are in danger of starvation in Somalia, according to The Telegraph. A UN News Service press release states that “as many as 3.2 million people are estimated to be on the brink of starvation in Somalia.”
Gradually, awareness is growing as to the severity of the situation (at hand) in Somalia; a combination of drought, famine (and now cholera), and a weak central government blend together into a volatile mix that spells catastrophe. Ignorance of the history and geography of the region contributes to a complex problem that has no simple solution.
I felt very bad about myself the other day (as I was pondering the crisis of famine in Somalia) when I realized my last, best memory of Somalia (or Mogadishu) was from the movie Black Hawk Downs. Pitiful, I know! A truth dawns on me, we must educate ourselves.
You need to look at good maps of The Horn of Africa. And read the BBC, The Telegraph, UN News Service, The New York Times, NPR and NewsBlaze in order to educate yourself on Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. Let me clue you in on some good sources.
A report from UN News Service yesterday (On ‘heartbreaking’ visit to Somalia, UN chief urges safe passage for aid workers) describes a visit by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, who is attempting to surmise the full scope of the problem. While grasping the depth of the crisis, Amos was encouraged by the fact that small shops in Mogadishu were opened for business.
NPR is posting some excellent coverage on the crisis and I will make a proper suggestion for you, read everything they publish on the famine in Somalia. One reporter in particular, Michele Kelemen, is really getting underneath the situation there, to give you a better understanding of this dicey predicament, where both al-Shabaab are restricting the people, as well as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
You’ll want to read Michele Kelemen’s (NPR) Opportunity In Famine’s Toll On Somali Insurgency, where she reveals the irony that the worst drought in 60 years for The Horn of Africa is also undermining these al-Shabaab bullies, who live off of extorting (which is given the euphemism of taxes) these innocent people.
Another NPR article pays tribute to New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks, whose photograph of a starving child from Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu, tells us so much more about the gravity of the crisis, than any montage of words or statistics could ever hope to tell us. This piece (by NPR staff) is titled: The Picture Show – Photo Brings Somalia’s Famine To The Front Page.
It’s been difficult for reporters to get into this region, so this puts a premium on Tyler Hicks’ photo. I must urge you to look carefully at this photo, though it will force you to see the horror of slow starvation in its starkest expression (the eye of a camera does not lie!). Hicks’ photo actually trumped Gabrielle Giffords’ (breaking news) return to the House on August 2nd.
We derive awareness and education from one simple photo. Another good source of information on Somalia comes from NewsBlaze and their reporter who lives in Somalia, Shafi’i Mohyaddin Obokar. I will link for you his latest story, Somalia’s Old Stadium Transformed Into Grazing Land. Shafi’i gives you some good history on the stadium, as well as the startling fact that a civil war has transpired right inside the stadium.
Since this crisis of famine in Somalia is so monumental, we may need to redirect our attention from local concerns to another part of the world, East Africa. Most of us are ignorant of the history of this area (The Horn of Africa), unless maybe it’s a sensational story on some Somalia pirates. Time to wake up, educate ourselves, and stop our not caring about millions of starving children.