The Somalian Drought: Impact and Aid

by Spencer Hardy on February 19, 2014

The Somalian drought is known today as one of the worst in East-African history.  The drought was so impactful that it killed over 260,000 people, half of which were children under the age of 5.  In terms of humanitarian aid, ‘it was a disaster”.  People flooded the refugee camps on the edge of the country, proving it very difficult to deliver food and basic care because of overpopulation.  Somalia has had a very bloody history, from the civil war that resulted in militant factions that split the country.  Not only was this a drought but it was perpetuated by the power struggle of the warlords.  For example, warlord Al-Shabaab forced all humanitarian efforts out of his controlled territories to keep order.  He realized after a while that this was not sustainable for his people and finally let aid organizations back into his region.  Refugees were forced to leave the country, families had to travel for months just to reach the refugee camps, leaving their sick children to die.  With the information presented it seems intuitive that there would be massive aid efforts in the region.  What was seen was a surprisingly low response from the rest of the world, even though the drought was coined the “worst humanitarian crisis.”

According to UNICEF the emergency relief and development programs only reach one third of their goal.  The lack of aid can be attributed to militant groups who run these regions.  What would happen is countries would donate resources to regions in Somalia; the militant groups would hoard all the supplies not delivering any to the people.  This forced larger countries to halt their relief efforts considering it was only beneficial to the oppressive warlords.  Another, very disturbing issue arose during the Somali drought.  Al-Shabaab, the largest faction in Somalia, has very close ties with Al-Qaida, who had their own relief efforts during the famine, handing out cash and food to the people of Mogadishu, the capital.  This may have seemed beneficial at first but it was very clear the militant group was doing giving aid for recognition and support.  This lead to a severe dichotomy in the country between actual relief efforts and those of Al-Qaida.  While Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida were handing out aid, they were threatening to shoot at organizations such as Red Cross.  It put the people of Somalia into a very difficult situation.  The people in this region of the country have been oppressed and have feared genocide for the past 20 years.  They despise Al-Shabaab and similar organizations but they were forced to receive aid and praise them.  From the Somali drought, warlords actually have had an uptake in public support and power around the country.

What the drought in Somalia showed us that usually there are many different contributing factors to an environmental disaster.  When delivering aid to a country it is important to understand the workings and society that will be worked in.

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