Date: Mon Sep 28 2009 - 19:54:53 EDT
Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)
United States halts food aid for Somali women and children
By Barry Mason
28 September 2009
The World Food Programme has closed 12 feeding centres for women and
children in Somalia because it has insufficient money to continue. Aid
workers have told the BBC that the cuts are the result of US restrictions
on aid to areas that are under the control of groups designated as
The WFP has less than half the funds it needs for next year. The cuts have
been made at the height of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the
region in more than a quarter of a century.
Large parts of Somalia fall into the US category of being under
“terrorist” control because they are currently run by al Shabab, an
Islamic organisation that Washington claims has links to Al Qaeda.
According to the United Nations, half of the six million Somali population
are in need of food aid. Most of these people live in areas controlled by
Around 1.5 million people are internally displaced in Somalia as a result
of fighting between the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government
(TFG) and various insurgent groups. They are living in refugee camps where
conditions are rapidly deteriorating. The UN children’s agency UNICEF
says that of 250,000 children living in camps, 70,000 under five are likely
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the WFP, one of the few aid agencies
left working in Somalia, said, “Getting help to them inevitably involves
dealing with al Shabab and other hardline groups now in control of the
towns and villages across the region.”
The WFP was working with the Obama administration to try to overcome these
difficulties, she told the BBC. Her diplomatic words mask a growing
humanitarian crisis that can be traced back directly to US foreign policy.
During the Cold War, the US poured weapons into the Horn of Africa because
it occupies a strategic point on world trade routes.
The breakdown of the Somali state can in large part be attributed to
American actions in this region. The Bush administration attempted to foist
the Transitional Federal Government on the Somali people by force of arms,
using the Ethiopian army as a proxy force. Since he came to office, Obama
has continued the policy of arming a government that has no internal
support. The result is the mass exodus of the civilian population out of
the capital into refugee camps.
The humanitarian crisis in Somalia has been exacerbated by drought, famine
and high commodity prices. A coalition of Canadian humanitarian agencies
has described the situation in the wider region as “a perfect storm of
crop failures, a multi-year lack of rain, conflicts and political
Over 20 million people in the Horn of Africa are facing the threat of
The affected area includes the countries of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea,
southern Ethiopia, north-eastern Uganda, northern parts of Tanzania and the
northern and eastern regions of Kenya. In Ethiopia, one in six of the
population is dependent on food aid.
Hundred of thousands of Somalis have fled to camps in Kenya to seek refuge.
The international aid agency Oxfam estimates a further 100,000 will flee
Somalia this year, heading for Kenya. The Dadaab refugee camp in
north-eastern Kenya was built for 90,000 people but is currently holding
300,000. It is described by Oxfam as “barely fit for humans,” with many
thousands without access or inadequate access to water and sanitation.
In Kenya around 10 million people already face food insecurity. Marcus
Prior of the WFP explained, “This is the worst (drought) in nearly a
decade. One in ten Kenyans is in need of food assistance.”
The severe drought is having a huge impact on the livelihoods of
pastoralists who make up an important part of the economy in the region.
Conflict between different groups of pastoralists has become common as they
seek to graze their cattle and encroach on each others’ territory.
Bright Rwamirama, a Ugandan government minister, told a news conference
recently “We are losing animals due to starvation…in the cattle
corridors.” A million Ugandans are receiving food aid distributed by the
The government of Tanzania has had to dispatch 40,000 tonnes of cereal to
the north of the country affected by the drought.
While the Horn of Africa area has been subject to periodic drought for many
years, leading to regular food shortages, several factors have combined to
exacerbate its current food crisis. High food prices are a major factor.
Oxfam reports that in Ethiopia the food staple white maize costs 72 percent
more than its five-year average. In some parts of Kenya, maize and beans
are nearly twice their usual price with the same for millet in Uganda.
According to the New Agriculturalist Web site, “In 27 sub-Saharan African
countries 80 to 90 percent of all cereal prices were over 25 percent higher
than two years ago.”
Climate change is seriously impacting the area. Beatrice Teya of US aid
charity World Vision stated. “The drought is becoming quite common,
almost continuous; especially in the Horn of Africa…it is not giving
communities time to recover.”
The regular rains that used to fall are more and more likely to fail or
deliver less water than in previous years. This continuous pattern of
inadequate rainfall undermines the ability of the people to cope. A recent
Oxfam statement says Somalia is seeing its fifth year of poor rainfall,
Ethiopia its fourth and Kenya its third. It notes that in Kenya, where the
rains would fail once a decade, they now do so every second or third year.
George Malakwen of the Eastern Africa Environmental Network has warned that
the impact of climate change on this area will lead to “people getting
out of eastern Africa…. I don’t know where they are going to go…this
thing is so expansive…eastern Africa is not going to be hospitable to
Africa has also been hit by the economic crisis. “Oxfam analysis shows
that government budgets in Sub-Saharan Africa will be $70bn (£43bn) worse
off this year as a result of the crisis,” Phil Bloomer of Oxfam recently
wrote in the London Independent.
“The G20 has delivered less than half of the £30bn it promised poor
countries at the London summit …. President Obama made a commitment in
July that G20 finance ministers would come up with a funding package to
help poor countries cope with climate change. Yet when the ministers met in
London earlier this month, the subject merited only a single line in the
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