The worst drought in 60 years has thrown some 13 million people across the Horn of Africa into crisis.
In Somalia, ravaged by two decades of conflict, the consequences have been disastrous. For over six months, aid agencies on the ground sounded the alarm that a major drought and famine was on the horizon.
Then in July and August, the world watched and international aid agencies scrambled as tens of thousands of Somalis fled famine and fighting in the devastated Southern part of the country, controlled by the armed group al-Shabab. And they continued to flee – to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, and refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia – in the following months, when the world seemed to lose interest.
Tens of thousands of Somalis have died and the UN has warned that three quarters of a million more are at risk of dying before the end of the year.
Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government, the Obama administration, and the United Nations have all blamed the anti-government group al-Shabab for restricting international aid operations in the areas they control. But is al-Shabab the only reason a drought and food crisis has turned into a deadly famine?
In the first of a two-part series examining the US response to drought and hunger in the Horn of Africa, Fault Lines travels to Mogadishu to meet refugees who have fled to the most war-ravaged city in the world to escape a worse fate, and the aid and medical workers struggling to help them. We examine the legacy of US engagement in Somalia and its efforts to address the current crisis.
Has aid in this region of the world become politicised? And has Washington’s pre-occupation with terrorism in the Horn of Africa contributed to the deadly consequences of this disaster?