The Somali Famine- Who Should We Blame to?

Prof. Mohamoud Iman Adan (Keydmedia) Virginia, USA - In reference to an article high lightening the Somali famine and aptly named “The unholy alliance by donors, media and aid agencies” by Rasna Warah- a columnist of the Kenyan Daily Nation on 6th of August, and attached in hereby hit the nail on the head about the fate of relief aids for Africa starving populations.
Editorial Keydmedia Online
The Somali Famine- Who Should We Blame to?

In fact, the massive human tragedy taking place in a big swath of the southern and central regions of Somalia could have been predictable- if not preventable to a greater extent- even months ahead of time before people got to advanced malnutrition stages.

Technologically speaking, the world is sending research satellites to discover hidden facts about planet Jupiter-millions of light years away- and yet failing to assess the impact of regional drought affecting millions of persons of all age-groups and depleted sources of living hood is totally unacceptable.

The stark truth is, however, was not a fallout based on an abstract dilemma, but followed a marriage of convenience and mutual interdependence between donors, media and aid agencies.

It is self-evident when life-supporting resources dwindle to zero degree, then an abject human tragedy is inevitable, especially when the people in question do not have alternative food resources to fallback; or an effective government in place that can make a difference, and that is what’s happening to millions of pastoral and farming communities in southern and central regions of Somalia

The first, failed responders include: The TFG government whose leaders are claiming the guardians of a failed state confined in a few blocks in the Capital City of Somalia. Then there is the UN regional authority which Somalia falls under its trust ship mandate.

The aid agencies that deal on forwarding relief supplies to malnourished recipients, and the neighboring East African governments who partially share the burden of Somalia’s drought tragedy, but equally sharing the spoils of dead.

All in all, they utterly failed to disclose the consequence of prolonged drought to the international media and world communities to head off imminent disaster in good time. It is never late to ask genuine questions, because similar situation may replicate soon.

The matter in question is why not alert the donors in early time that could have saved thousands of lives, most of them under-age children and the elderly? Why the response of the UN Regional Office was so late and so slow…? Why the aid agencies waited so long until malnourishment hit the hardest and victims die by thousands…?

Why the neighboring East African leaders reacted so late in the face of human calamity that did not spare even their own people…?

In nutshell, the culpable villains who came short of their responsibilities and failed to rescue their brethren in need are al-Shabab, who blocked off relief supplies to reach the famine stricken people.

The TFG establishment is number two culprit. They are oblivious of the human tragedy of such magnitude taking place right in its backyard, and yet turning its back to the problem, while being mindful of power grabbing games and squandering the public treasury at large.

The special envoy of the UN Secretary General has his share of the human tragedy and is accountable of his shortcoming, too. Dr. Augustine P. Mahiga put all his weight into the political scale, a lucrative venue for a few interest groups instead of being mindful of voicing out for the voiceless masses, and thus appealing the world family to avert human catastrophe engulfing the southern and central regions of Somali.

As always is the case, the aid agencies are in the front line of the famine stricken zones, and yet they give priority on the business side. They are not humanitarian entities by vocation, but are profits seeking organizations slicing a big portion out of the aid pie.

Needless to say that aid agencies are knowledgeable of their respective fields and generally remain in the sidelines until human disaster hits its zenith and become newsworthy or a saleable issue to the genuine donors.

Deliberately, they move on their time, take pictures of heart wrenching victims- mostly on advanced stage of malnourished children and the elderly- and call the attention of the world to rescue and help out. As usual, they position themselves as the 1st stepping stone, and the donors knock their doors and let them carry on the job.

Regrettably, telling the true face of the impending disaster a month or two earlier would have saved thousands of lives; but acting out expeditiously does not cash in a lucrative business for the aid agencies, because they don’t have yet bare boned children pictures to display and show the world to aid.

Unfortunately, the western mass media can read and understand the fine print of the aid agencies unholy plans, but they look the other way and avoid embarrassing their stepping stone buddies.

The Dollar Equation

As usual, the aid agencies cash in service charge budget before the relief recipients take a bite of relief food. Local field witnesses admit that drought victims receive perhaps twenty cents, or less, out of every dollar contributed on their name by the world community.

Where goes the bulk of the aid then? Who is paid the first and the biggest, and who is paid the last and the smallest? Is relief fund for creating more job opportunities for expatriate staff, or for saving drought recipients? Who is helping who… and who is the winner at the end of the drought season?

Relations of drought victims ask redefinition of aid service procedure. One easy way to do it is putting aside a percentage of the total aid funds to be earmarked for aid agencies’ services. The balance budget can make a difference in the lives of the drought victims. The distribution of the aid fund should transparent, and the recipient community should have a voice in the aid equation system.

The Unsung Heroes

Hundreds of diaspora graduate students and local college graduates are already working in disaster zones inside the country. Unlike paid aid agency staff operating in safe environment, these are volunteers risk life and limb and feed the needy people.

They employ a more direct venue to pipeline relief funds contributed by Diaspora Native Somali communities in the most expeditious business transaction even. Relief money sent through “Hawalad” transaction finds its way into drought camps within 24 hours. No bureaucracy or cumbersome money transfer is involved, and many lives are saved. This system is based on trust and works on light-speed.

The ordinary aid money transfer through ordinary channels could take a week or even longer, and by that time a good number of intended recipients are withered away.

After-all, these volunteers are young native Somalis, but are citizens of the world, mainly from USA, Europe, Australia and Canada. There are also many more volunteers who reside in Arab, African and the Far East countries who took time out from their works and are serving inside the country.

Doing the Extra Mile

Not only that, but these volunteers are working to rehabilitate the people and preparing them to stay put home and take advantage of the imminent rainy season due on October 2011 and encouraging to grow staple food crops while under feeding program. Here is where aid agencies and donors can step in by supporting these people for two raining seasons/ 12 months until they fall back on their resources.   

Biased Mass Media

Within this context, foreign mass media falls behind when it comes to glorifying the achievements of local operatives and native volunteers working under such precarious environment.

The western media do not report the voluntary role Diaspora youth and local college students play by raising relief funds on global scale and carrying on feeding operations in drought zones; the UN organizations are aware of the humanitarian work these volunteers are handling on daily bases.

The Political Clout of East African Countries

The governments of the East African countries bordering Somalia take their stake out of Somalia famine funds in less conspicuous way and let relief funds and food supplies roll on forwarded to the needy people.

However, they take their portion of the aid pie that bumpers the local economy in terms of salary paid to their nationals, rent of office space and residential houses, transportation services, hotel and boarding expenses, purchasing local & international flight tickets, cash flow from tourism, bank transactions, purchasing local products, communication fees and business transaction, just to name a few paid services.  

Aftermath Plans after Relief Operations…?

There’s a dilemma after drought recovery is terminated. Do donors have in mind plans to sustain these people and invest on productive micro-projects programs in their homelands after the relief campaign is over?

It is likely that aid agencies are planning to roll over their services for long and keeping refugees and drought camps open for years to come, unless the Kenyan and Ethiopian government turn these masses back to their home country and close the camps.

However, aid agencies can adopt another easy option good for carrying on relief and micro-program operations simultaneously by working in partnership with educated native Somalis who are entitled protection through local kinship.

The motto of the young volunteers is: Don’t give me fish every day. Teach me how to fish, and I will be on myself.

By Prof. Mohamoud Iman Adan ( ) - Correspondent

Editorial 29 April 2022 13:51

Somalia is on the move. It is pushing for foreign investment, and large infrastructure projects are changing the face of its scarred capital city, Mogadishu. These developments could promise better fortunes for Somalis as the country emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic